“Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa” would seem to be a bit of an interloper in the month of October when Hollywood rolls out its prestige movies. But not so fast. Directed by Jeff Tremaine with story by Fax Bahr and Adam Small and story and screenplay by Tremaine, Spike Jonze and Johnny Knoxville, “Bad Grandpa” is funny, witty, well-executed, and yes, raunchy, but some days that’s exactly what is needed. “Bad Grandpa” promises nothing more than solid laughs and humor at America’s expense and it delivers.
Starring Johnny Knoxville as 86-year-old Irving Zisman and Jackson Nicoll as his 8-year-old grandson, Billy, the film is about the road trip the two take from Nebraska to North Carolina following the “death” of Irving’s wife and the “incarceration” of Billy’s mother to deliver Billy to his father. Along the way the two pull some outlandish punks on the unsuspecting citizens of small-town USA. While some stunts are more successful than others, what’s always funny is the reaction of the people who are punked.
Knoxville and his pint-sized partner in crime, Nicoll, have terrific chemistry. Jackson Nicoll is especially fun to watch. He’s so seemingly earnest and genuine, even when making some of the most outrageous comments to total strangers, you almost believe what he’s doing is on the up and up. Other than the bits with Nicoll, Knoxville’s best moments are with women—any age or ethnicity. They may think him strange or even vile, but he gets a pass because of his age and likeability.
As noted not every stunt is a thigh-slapper; some will have you grimacing. However, the “gentlemen’s club,” diner and beauty pageant gags are hysterical and there are lots of other laughs in between.
I have to go back to Jackson Nicoll. What does the future hold for him? I hope he continues a career in film. Maybe that’s the ultimate punk of “Bad Grandpa.” Without necessarily meaning to, the film has actually gifted us with a real star in the making.
I’m not sure what “Bad Grandpa” says about the American people—we’re gullible and sometimes downright stupid for sure. But the reactions of many in surprising locations show that we do have heart, too. That’s a good October surprise.