Those who are familiar with the 'Jackass' show and movies will recognize Johnny Knoxville in a geriatric disguise as the character Irving Zisman. This troublemaking old man has stirred up a few situations for brief segments but now he is the center of a feature film, 'Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa.'
Irving Zisman (Knoxville) is an eighty six year old man whose wife has just passed away which sets him free to really live it up. During the funeral, his estranged, drug-addict daughter arrives with her son Billy (Jackson Nicoll). She announces that she is going back to jail and needs Irving to take him to his estranged father in North Carolina until she is released. When the daughter tries to steal her deceased mother's necklace, a scuffle ensues and the casket is tipped over much to everyone's horror.
Later, Irving and Billy speak to Billy's father via webcam and inform him of the situation. He doesn't want the kid until he is reminded about the money he can get from the government for child support which changes his mind.
Thus begins a cross-country trip wherein an unlikely duo drives to their destination. Irving misbehaves, hitting on dozens of women, drinking to excess and leaving the child unattended for an inappropriate amount of time along with other infractions.
It's unexplainable how these movies make us laugh. They are as lowbrow as one can possibly imagine and many people are immune to their charms, but they connect with many people on a primitive level.
The narrative is a very loose one and offers structure to the film. That may have been necessary to explain why Irving is traveling around with a young boy. Sadly, this acknowledgment of plot eats up valuable time that could have been spent on stunts. That was the advantage the 'Jackass' movies had: volume. Not all of the sketches worked, but there were so many packed into each movie, enough laughter would ensue and enough images would stick in your memory. This only really has a handful of moments that are really going to stay with you long after the movie ends.
Though there are some stunts and large-scale uncomfortable moments, a lot of Irving's antics involve him terribly attempting to seduce women. This is fine and grounded in reality, but is a mixed bag. Instead of a bunch of jackasses hurting themselves and looking foolish, the targets here are unsuspecting people who are usually a mix of horrified, uncomfortable or annoyed.
It might also surprise you that there are some dramatic/heartwarming moments in this story. Thankfully, it's never overdone or heavy-handed, but it probably would have been terribly remiss to not acknowledge the potential with an unwanted child and a lonely old man.
Unlike most of his traditional movie roles (with the exception of 'The Ringer') this is in Knoxville's wheelhouse and capabilities as an actor. Nicoll is probably the star of the show as he is a fantastic facilitator for Zisman's shenanigans. He also isn't overly precocious which makes him more believable, even though he is clearly in on the joke.
Special features include: nothing.
'Bad Grandpa' is so intermittently funny, it occasionally hurts. The attempt at framing it with a plot may have been necessary, but also forces the hilarity to slow down a bit.
Fans of 'Jackass' will and should give this a chance. Just know that it is a slightly different beast.
Rated R 91 minutes 2014