I thought we’d be done with Jackass movies after 2010’s Jackass 3-D, a film where its only entertainment value was the various existential crises of its cast of 40-somethings, who realize they’re still stuck getting bludgeoned and violated for both a living and our entertainment. What I forgot is that people absolutely love watching grown men be humiliated for shits and giggles — and that this kind of public abasement can be made on the cheap. That the latest iteration of Jackass, Bad Grandpa, both topped this weekend’s box office and made its money back should’ve been obvious.
Bad Grandpa, strangely enough, finds “Jackass Prime” Johnny Knoxville as the sole remaining on-screen holdover. This time around, instead of a parade of tasteless and dangerous stunts with varying degrees of bodily harm, we have something more akin to a real life movie. It’s got a plot and everything! But like a hidden-camera show, Knoxville spends the film in elderly makeup, attempting to make random strangers uncomfortable as the titular Bad Grandpa, Irving Zisman. The character is a recurring Jackass staple (and usually joined by Spike Jonze in old-lady drag, who only appears here in outtakes), and serves the single punchline of an old man doing socially and age-inappropriate things for a hidden camera. Admittedly, over a few minutes on a TV show, this can be amusing (granted, it was usually the least physically disgusting permutation of their comedic stylings), but Bad Grandpa makes the mistake of stretching this one-note comedic premise into feature length. The situations are all pretty puerile, from Irving getting his genitals stuck in a vending machine, to Irving stumbling upon a male strip club, to Irving just generally sexually harassing strangers, all for the sake of filming the reactions of random people on the street.
Like I said, there is a plot of sorts, with Irving trying to get rid of his grandson (Jackson Nicoll, Funsize) by driving him across the country — and yes, they even predictably grow as people. This seems to be inspired by Borat (2006) and Bruno (2009), films which used the same type of hidden-camera device, but at least attempted some sort of social commentary. Bad Grandpa uses the grandfather-and-grandson story to graft a lot of schmaltz onto a film where an elderly man paints the walls of a Denny’s with his diarrhea (that some critics are praising the film’s “heart” shows how low the bar sits for merit). But maybe even worse, the existence of a storyline has a tendency to bog the film down with needless things (for a film like this, at least) like dialogue and exposition. At least the other Jackass films had the sense to jam enough stupid stuff into 90 minutes to keep your attention. Bad Grandpa keeps slowing down for the sake of a story that has no real point, making for a movie that’s surprisingly dull for all the filth it slings. Rated R for strong crude and sexual content throughout, language, some graphic nudity and brief drug use.
Playing at Carolina Cinemas, Epic of Hendersonville, Regal Biltmore Grande, United Artists Beaucatcher