If you’ve seen the poster for this movie, then you pretty much know what to expect. The set up of the film is pretty simple: Johnny Knoxville (and a whole lot of makeup) is Irving Zisman, the titular Grandpa. His wife just died, and he is thrilled because he is finally a free man. Enter Zisman’s grandson Billy (played by Jackson Nicoll of The Fighter). Billy’s mother is going to jail, so he has to go live with his father in North Carolina. Guess who gets to drive him there from Nebraska?
There are some pretty funny moments throughout the movie. Knoxville flies through a store window, strips down to his underwear in a male strip club, hits on literally every female who makes an appearance in the film, and a certain part of him gets stuck in a vending machine. There are also some incredibly funny moments involving Billy. Nicoll has the perfect combination of charm, filthiness, and heart. In fact, he tends to outshine his Jackass co-star more often than not. While this film may not make an A-Lister out of the young actor, it will certainly propel his career in that direction.
While there are plenty of funny moments throughout the film, it actually drags more often than not. This film is very experimental in a lot of ways. It is part hidden camera movie, as most of the people in the film are unsuspecting victims of the Borat-esque pranks occurring throughout. However, there is also a plot woven in, and it just is not quite as seamless as it needs to be to keep you interested. Irving and Billy form a bond throughout the movie, and the dramatic tension of whether Irving will let Billy live with him, instead of dropping him off with his deadbeat father, underscores the entire film.
The only problem is that because the movie and the characters are so one-dimensional, the audience is never that emotionally invested in any of it. The laughs-per-minute ratio is simply not high enough for a movie like this. With the other Jackass movies, for example, if a joke misses, there’s another one waiting in the wing that will probably make you laugh. In Bad Grandpa, however, if a joke misses (and several of them do), there is not always a joke to follow it up. There is often a scene that we are meant to take (at least somewhat) seriously, and because these scenes involve Johnny Knoxville wearing old man makeup, that is not always easy to do. It was a valiant effort, but it misses more often than it connects.
While there are some funny scenes, Bad Grandpa is not quite the movie that it wants to be. Knoxville is good, and Jackson Nicoll elevates the material to another level, but with a bit too much plot and not quite enough everything else, it winds up falling a bit flat. This is the type of movie that you would probably enjoy watching on MTV five years from now at 1:00 AM, but only if you have your remote handy to change the channel when it gets boring. At the very least, wait until Netflix for this one.
Movie Review by Mike Danner