Movie Review #746
Directed by Jeff Tremaine. Produced by Derek Freda, Spike Jonze, Johnny Knoxville, and Jeff Tremaine for Dickhouse Productions and MTV Films. Screenplay by Johnny Knoxville & Spike Jonze & Jeff Tremaine. (Story: Johnny Knoxville & Spike Jonze & Jeff Tremaine & Fax Bahr & Adam Small.) Starring Johnny Knoxville, Jackson Nicoll, and Catherine Keener. Credited cameo: Spike Jonze. Distributed by Paramount Pictures in wide release on October 25, 2013. Unrated. Theatrical version rated R: strong crude and sexual content throughout, language, some graphic nudity and brief drug use. Runs 102 minutes. (Theatrical: 92 minutes.)
Call me old-fashioned, but “Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa” is just too crude, too raunchy, too much to handle without wincing wherever laughter is the intention. It opens with the titular character getting his genitals caught in a vending machine doing god-knows-what to the poor piece of machinery. We see a lot more than we want to during this scene, which seems to run on for an eternity. I hope to god that this scene is only to be found in the unrated version of the film; to have put it in the theatrical version, released last October, would be asking for theater walkouts within the first five minutes.
Very rarely is the movie painful for simply its gross-out humor, however. This is a film of thoroughly poor taste. Had director Jeff Tremaine exercised any restraint at all, I might be calling this a black comedy, but no, it’s not a black comedy. It’s trash. A good black comedy straddles the line between tragedy and comedy, by presenting the former as if it were the latter. “Bad Grandpa” crosses that line, not simply because it glorifies depravity, but because we’re supposed to laugh at it when a little kid is at the center of it all.
Virtually, there is no story here. I mean, there is a story, but try and count how many times these writers get distracted. You’ll lose count very quickly, and without the story, boredom is guaranteed. Anyway, the “story,” or lack thereof, is comprised of several skits about a grandpa trying to get his grandson to his dad’s house, because his mother’s crack addiction has landed her in gaol. His father’s “business” is going stale, and he’s addicted to hookahs. The old geezer chauffeuring his grandson around is addicted to hookers, and he rejoices when his wife dies. (This and the “hidden camera” trick used throughout the film are just two of at least ten ways the movie takes from “Borat”; the road movie’s final sequence, as well, is derivative of “Little Miss Sunshine”.)
The caricature goes so far into depravity that it’s difficult to laugh at, especially with a little kid in the center of it all. I know I’ve said this already; it must be understood that the kid doesn’t earn laughs when he tells everybody that his mother’s in gaol because she’s a crackhead. It’s funny at first, but it gets repetitive quickly, and we start to feel bad for him. Not just the scum-of-the-earth characters, but also the sexist, racist, and violent ideas of the Grandpa provide most of the tasteless “comedy” here. Maybe if this wasn’t such an excessive movie, it would be a bit funny. Granted, it all starts out funny, and I do honor how hard Johnny Knoxville tried. I also applaud the makeup artists here, as they make 42-year-old Knoxville’s transformation into an 86-year-old man 100% convincing. The makeup department got a well-deserved Oscar nomination for their work on “Bad Grandpa”. Outside makeup, however, this movie is light years from Oscar territory. And I mean…light years. ✴
– Alexander Diminiano