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Film Review: Bad Grandpa

Just when you thought Johnny Knoxville couldn’t get any stupider …



Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa| D

Johnny Knoxville is the Hollywood equivalent of the kid in the back of the classroom who’s always making rude noises with his armpit: We know he’s a goon but we keep encouraging him anyway. Having long outlived the initial novelty value of the Jackass stunt-and-prank-shock empire he created on MTV, Knoxville continues to crank out lowest-common-denominator schlock that would be deeply embarrassing on the résumé of a man half his age. 

His latest offering, with help from directors Jeff Tremaine and Spike Jonze, is a witless, merciless and pointless exercise in elaborate street theater, in which unsuspecting spectators get caught up in staged antics and barely controlled chaos. These varied stunts include Knoxville vaulting through a thrift shop window, destroying a wedding cake before appalled guests, running over a giant penguin, provoking a biker gang, taunting the dancers and patrons at a ghetto male strip club, and getting his extremely stretchy fake rubber penis caught in a soda machine. 

Curiously all this nonsense is wrapped around a grim narrative which finds Knoxville, under impressive mounds of latex, as newly widowed Nebraskan octogenarian Irving Zisman, an ornery coot who greets the news of his wife’s death as if it were a favorable parole hearing for his long-suffering Johnson — a fact he announces to the horror of everyone else in the hospital waiting room. He’s committed to making up for lost time by thrusting his wrinkly old carcass into the face of any female unfortunate enough to be in his way.

There’s also a hint of racism sprinkled on the sexism, as the faux codger makes constant references to chocolate pudding, tells a cashier that she’s “hotter than a Puerto Rican picnic” and repeatedly bows to a bemused gal of Asian heritage. Hey, you know what never gets old? Sexually harassing random women as they pass by! Man, that just busts guts every damn time.

Knoxvillelets the prosthetics do the work for him, but he’s hardly safe behind the disguise, and we’re supposed to get off on the danger of real conflict.

Assisting Irv in his harassment campaign is child actor Jackson Nicoll, who is an adorably goofy little butterball at least. For loose plotting purposes, Nicoll is Billy, the grandson that Irving is forced to haul across country to stay with the boy’s deadbeat dad while the mother does a jail stint. Practically, the cute scamp is there because apparently the average person will endure much more abuse and vulgarity from an 8-year-old or a senior citizen than a regular dude. The gimmick of a young boy delivering wildly inappropriate pickup lines to grown-up ladies is good for a few giggles, but it’s a bit that was done more than a decade ago on The Man Show.

Variations of most of the other stuff were essentially done by a more talented performer in Borat, and no doubt on Candid Camera decades ago. Not that fans of Knoxville’s brand of fart-driven juvenilia will care that this material is derivative or, for that matter, mean-spirited or crude. Pratfalls and poop jokes are sadly universal, and as much as snobs like us frown upon this junk, there are always more folks happy to join the moron parade.


Jackass presents: Bad Grandpa is rated R has a run time of 92 minutes and is in theaters now.


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