Movie review: 'Bad Grandpa' is a tastelessly funny road trip

For the News-DemocratOctober 25, 2013 

What It's About

Crude, lewd and frequently funny, "Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa" will delight its fans and perplex the uninitiated. But people who go should know what they're getting into, for the movie emphasizes tasteless humor, just like the popular MTV television series did.

"Jackass" character Irving Zisman (Johnny Knoxville) and his 8-year-old grandson Billy (Jackson Nicoll) embark on a road trip that involves hidden camera pranks, and laughs come at the expense of innocent bystanders. There is a running gag about a corpse.

At least the movie company is honest about what it does and the lengths they will go to for a laugh.

Make sure you stay for the credits, for it shows much of the gags' set-up and a crew that bonded well during the shoot.

Performances

Comical Knoxville, in industrial-strength senior citizen make-up, never breaks character as an 86-year-old horny widower saddled with his grandson, but eventually makes the best of the situation (despite teaching the kid some behaviors others would label 'inappropriate').

Your heart goes out to the kid actor playing his grandson because he's being taken across country to live with his ne'er-do-well dad after his mother has to return to jail. His parents won't be winning any awards, for these two are despicable excuses for a mom and dad. Drug-addicted losers, they earn your scorn immediately. Jackson Nicoll was in "The Fighter" and "Fun Size," and appears to be a naturally funny kid.

But the true stars of the movie are the real people they encounter in such cities as St. Louis, Kansas City, Nebraska, Tennessee and North Carolina, among other stops.

What Works

Adding wacky genius Spike Jonze ("Being John Malkovich") to the writing-acting team was a brilliant stroke, for his presence is noticeable.

What Doesn't Work

The series of stunts and sight gags are a mixed bag, but there are more laugh-out-loud moments than not. The set pieces in a funeral home, estate sale, discount store, bingo parlor and little kid beauty pageant are genuinely funny, but the grocery store larceny, diner breakfast fiasco, strip club and biker bar have many wince-inducing moments. Surely, these folks signed releases, so how much is staged and how much is truly spontaneous is debatable.

2 1/2 stars out of 4

Director: Jeff Tremaine

Starring: Johnny Knoxville, Jackson Nicoll

Rated: R for strong crude and sexual content throughout, language, some graphic nudity and brief drug use.

Length: 1:32

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