Remember Borat? If you've seen it then it is hard to forget. The combination of a well developed fictional character put into real life situations was something not really seen outside of Sacha Baron Cohen's television series from which the character originated. It was fresh. It was funny. It was an instant classic. Bruno, Sacha Baron Cohen's followup, was also funny, but not nearly the sensation that Borat was. In the movie world, there hasn't really been anything else that followed this formula of real life reactions to scripted performances. At least not until now.
Remember Jackass? It was a television show on MTV in which people did lots of silly and stupid things on camera for entertainment. It's been years since Jackass has been on the air and the main star of it, Johnny Knoxville, hasn't really seemed to have found his next big thing yet. He has appeared in some movies, but none that have really been huge successes like his MTV show. Now, he's back on the big screen, but this time things are a little different. This time he has adopted the formula of Borat and given us another entry in this reality-fiction combination cinema that hasn't really been seen since Bruno left the screens. This time he has given us the character of Irving Zisman AKA Bad Grandpa.
Irving Zisman lives up to the title of the film, Bad Grandpa, as he gives his grandson beer, teaches him to steal, and just generally gets him involved in all sorts of unethical and sometimes illegal activities. Seeing a grandfather do these activities with his grandson in real life might evoke horror and uneasiness in our minds, but knowing that this is all scripted material for a movie makes it absolutely hysterical to watch on screen. In each situation that Irving Zisman and his grandson, Billy, get into we the audience get to witness just how people in real life would react to this bad behavior. Sometimes, the people witnessing their acts are appropriately shocked and sometimes they just laugh it off. Others just go with it like nothing wrong is really going on. All these different reactions are fascinating to watch. You never know how someone is going to react and it makes you think about how you would react. Would you ignore the inappropriate actions of Irving Zisman or confront him and try to change things? Would you laugh it off or just flat out ignore him? These are questions that make Bad Grandpa more than just a comedy. It's a study of human behavior.
In order for the real life people to be convinced that Irving Zisman is a real person and not a made up Johnny Knoxville character certain things have to happen. One thing is that Johnny Knoxville has to be a good enough actor to make people believe he isn't himself. To do this, he wisely did not do an exaggerated old man voice. The voice he uses isn't too different from his regular voice, but it doesn't need to be. Much of the reason for this is due to the second thing that makes his character believable: his makeup. The makeup used on his face to make him look older is very convincing. It's so convincing that when I first saw the trailer for this movie I didn't have any idea it was Johnny Knoxville playing the character. I totally bought that it could have been an older man cast in the role. For me, the makeup department deserves much of the credit for making this movie actually work.
Overall, Bad Grandpa is a very successful comedy. It is funny from start to finish and also gives the audience some things to think about in terms of human behavior. It isn't quite as funny as Borat, however. The movie does kind of repeat itself sometimes with a lot of the jokes revolving around how elderly people can have a sex drive just as much, if not more, than younger people. It's a notion that results in lots of laughs early on, but gets to be a little stale as the movie gets towards the end. That said, laughs come pretty frequently in the movie and continue on right through the end credits to make a highly enjoyable and sometimes thought-provoking comedy. The reality-fiction comedy genre has successfully made it's comeback with Bad Grandpa.