MOVIE REVIEW: ‘Bad Grandpa’

Film: Bad Grandpa
Starring: Johnny Knoxville, Jackson Nicoll
Genre: Comedy
Studio: MTV/Dickhouse

After years of groin shots, pranks, paper cuts, broken bones, and rocket skates, party boy dancing, and shopping cart races, the minds behind Jackass are attempting to blend their unique brand of comedy into a cohesive narrative with their latest film, Bad Grandpa. It’s not quite what you’ve come to expect, though it has many familiar elements of their humor, and it might just be the first step towards a new era of physical and hidden camera comedy.

To understand how Bad Grandpa plays, which is also called Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa in some circles, you first need to know that the film walks a thin line between the worlds of scripted and improvisational humor. For the first time in the history of the Jackass franchise Johnny Knoxville and longtime collaborator Jeff Tremaine have challenged themselves to weave an actual narrative through their endless array of gags, and to their credit they do a far better job than anyone else to date (that I know of, at least). The story involves a recently widowed old man who, on the day of his wife’s funeral, learns he must transport his meth-addicted daughter’s son across the country to live with his equally trashy father in one of the Carolinas. Grandpa, anxious to get back on the prowl for ladies (a running gag), takes on the mission – begrudgingly – and he soon sets off in his car with his eleven-year-old grandson by his side. The two share views on life and joke around, but before long they get bored, and it’s at these points in the film that the world of Jackass people know and love is injected in to the story.


The gags, which honestly is why most will be buying tickets for this, are as hit and miss as they have ever been. You see Grandpa hit on unsuspecting women while the grandson asks random men on the street to adopt him, a few poorly handled attempts at abandoning the boy, and general bad irreverent behavior turned up to such a degree that it warrants the attention of the everyday passer-by. There is nothing that you haven’t seen done in at least some way before in the franchise other than dark humor related to the well-being of the child in his parents’ care. This will work for some, but for me it just felt like the cast was grasping at straws for fresh ideas and coming up short.

Knoxville has evolved his Grandpa character enough to make him engaging to viewers, but the endless stream of sexually explicit thoughts and familiar setups runs out of steam long before the film crosses the finish line. Make no mistake, Bad Grandpa is without a doubt a Jackass movie, but at the same time it attempts to be much more. This works early on, but as the film carries on the narrative sequences begin to feel more like a transitional tool between bits than actual plot points. There is no arc to the madness, just madness, and for the most part the trailer spoiled the major gags.

Bad Grandpa is a film diehard Jackass supporters will likely enjoy, but I find it very hard to believe average fans and/or casual viewers will feel the same. The attempt by Knoxville and team to up the ante of what their form of comedy can be is admirable, but unfortunately the final results just don’t work.

Score: C

Review written by: James Shotwell (Follow him on Twitter)

James Shotwell
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