Well, what did you expect?
As I left the screening of “Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa,” I was trying to sum up my feelings about this alternately dull and shocking exercise in semi-scripted fiction. I had to admit, it was, to paraphrase Denny Green, what I thought it was.
Clad in old man makeup, “Jackass” star Johnny Knoxville plays Irving Zisman. Irving is a recent, and quite pleased, widower after the death of his unpleasant wife of many years. Smiling brightly (and to the consternation of the woman sitting next to him) he tells the doctor, “I thought she’d never die!”
This is to be a renaissance for Irving, who plans to live it up and bed as many younger women as he can. As he’s hunting down every strip club and massage parlor in town without luck, he decides to make love to a vending machine with disastrous results.
Meanwhile, little Billy (Jackson Nicoll) is explaining to strangers that his mother is going to prison because of her deep and abiding love for crack cocaine. They react with shock and dismay and don’t know what to say to the boy. I’m guessing they sought out lots of people to react to this news, so I’m not sure why they chose to show reactions that weren’t really funny.
Billy’s mom interrupts her mother’s funeral (attended only by caterers and staff of the funeral home) to drop the boy off with Irving and instruct him to take him to his father in Raleigh, N.C. While there are some good laughs at the funeral, the reality of the premise is hard to ignore — here’s an 8-year-old boy that nobody wants.
Hhhhhh. Yup. That’s what “Bad Grandpa” is really about. It’s kind of a weird uphill battle for the makers of the movie to choose to fight. One might argue that “Bad Santa” is largely the same, except that film didn’t try to be a quasi-documentary.
(My usual writing partner and hand-holder-in-chief, Brian Byrne, noted that they had to leave all the concerned, decent human reactions on the cutting room floor; which is fine. I just wish they’d been able to find reactions that were funny to put in their place.)
So begins a road trip with Billy and Irving to see the father who is only interested in a government support check. Irving abandons Billy at almost every turn, usually to try (unsuccessfully) to get laid.
And here’s where the Jackass pedigree shines through with short vignettes of Grandpa trying to mail Billy or wandering into a bar hosting male strippers and deciding to show them what he’s got. Some of it is funny. Some of it is boring.
While the misanthropy never fully leaves, it is nice to see a relationship develop between Billy and Irving, leading to a denouement that is as predictable as they come.
There are some legitimately funny pieces to “Bad Grandpa,” but unless you also like sitting through an 8-year-old boy begging random men on the street to be his new father and watching their almost complete indifference, I wouldn’t recommend the whole thing.
If you loved “Jackass,” but without any of the direct-to-camera shots, this might be right up your alley; but if that wasn’t your thing and you still go see this movie, don’t be shocked when you leave dissatisfied. Because what did you expect? It’s “Jackass.”
I give “Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa” 2 out of 5 fake elongated scrotums.
“Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa” is rated R for strong crude and sexual content throughout, language, some graphic nudity, and brief drug use.