‘Jackass’ is back! Well, sort of. Johnny Knoxville has reteamed with his ‘Jackass’ crew, including director Jeff Tremaine, to make a new movie centered on his character Irving Zisman, an elderly man who steals, curses, and fools real people into thinking that he’s harmed himself by doing a variety of stunts and gags. Also, he likes to show off his 12-inch sagging scrotum to anyone who walks by. Mixing in a narrative story with real pranks on real people, ‘Bad Grandpa’ is like ‘Borat’ with the ‘Jackass’ brand. And man, does it work. I haven’t laughed so hard in a movie theater in a long time.
If you’ve seen any of the ‘Jackass’ movies, you should know that the Irving character is raunchy, vulgar and not above putting himself in harm’s way. The narrative story here features a kid named Billy (Jackson Nicoll) whose mother is about to start a prison sentence for drugs and other felonies. She gives the kid to her father Irving (Knoxville) in the middle of the funeral ceremony for his recently deceased wife. She tells him to drive Billy across country to be with his father. Needless to say, Billy’s father is no prized human either. He sells drugs and stolen electronics.
Billy and Irving embark on a long road trip with many misadventures along the way. The movie is mostly shot with hidden HD cameras, as Knoxville captures real people and their real reactions to his gags, which are often very funny. From Irving getting his schlong stuck inside a vending machine to Billy posing as a girl in a toddler beauty pageant, all of the pranks had me laughing ’til I cried. Yet there’s less of a gross-out factor than the other ‘Jackass’ movies. Instead, we get comically awkward moments with real people at their jobs, such as Irving trying to overnight Billy in a package at the post office.
What works here is the chemistry between Knoxville and Nicoll. The boy is far advanced from his actual age, and can keep up with Knoxville’s antics and improvisations. He’s a cute kid and is genuinely funny throughout. As for Knoxville, he amps up his Irving character to 11 and never holds back. Although I wasn’t too sure about making a whole movie about this character, I was pleasantly surprised at how funny it turned out.