Despite the idiotic ideas behind the TV series and film franchise, the Jackass series is actually a pretty good film series. Sure, it contributed to everything that is currently wrong with television (the reality TV genre, which tries to glue as many eyeballs to the screen without any artistic merit involved), but there is creativity and commitment that isn’t on display in other projects of Jackass’ ilk. That being said I didn’t think the Jackass series was strong enough to earn my attention for their first attempt at something with an actual narrative. Yet when Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa scored a surprise Oscar nomination (for Best Makeup and Hairstyling) I couldn’t help but finally pay attention to the film. While I ultimately found the narrative of the film to be problematic as I thought I would, the creativity and commitment that has been on display in previous Jackass installments still remains. Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa also has some great comedic set pieces and ultimately comes across as a much more easily digestible version of Borat or Bruno.
Jackass Presents Bad Grandpa follows Irving Zisman (Johnny Knoxville) as he is forced to take his grandson (Jackson Nicoll) across the country to his father (Greg Harris) now that his mother (Georgina Cates) is going to jail. The film reunites the Jackass creative team as Jeff Tremaine directs and Tremaine, Johnny Knoxville and Spike Jonze (who had a big year in 2013 with this, Her and his role in The Wolf of Wall Street) write the film.
The first thing you will notice about Bad Grandpa is that it isn’t your typical film. It combines a loose plot with a bunch of real life gags with unexpecting people. In that way it is very similar to Sacha Baron Cohen’s more famous films, Borat and Bruno. The problem with Cohen’s films is that they stretch their gags so far that they can become unbearable. Luckily, that isn’t the case with Bad Grandpa. You can complain all you want about the potty humor and other childish moments (which this film certainly has), but at least it’s easy to watch. That being said, the gags ultimately overpower the plot in this film, which is in some ways a good thing as the plot is amateurish at best.
Ultimately, Jackass Presents Bad Grandpa is a fun if predictable watch that is able to combine the amateurish qualities of reality television with some strong cinematic qualities (including two great performances from Johnny Knoxville and Jackson Nicoll).