Mania Review: Bad Grandpa -

Mania Review

Mania Grade: B

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  • Starring: Johnny Knoxville, Jackson Nicoll, Georgia Cates and Spike Jonze
  • Written by: Preston Lacy and Jeff Tremaine
  • Directed by: Jeff Tremaine
  • Studio: Paramount Pictures
  • Rating: R
  • Run Time: 92 minutes
  • Series:

Mania Review: Bad Grandpa

Because farts are really funny.

By Rob Vaux     October 25, 2013

Bad Grandpa
© Paramount Pictures/Robert Trate

 Look, I laughed about a dozen times during Bad Grandpa. Big, dumb, moronic guffaws. I'm not proud of it, but there it is. And that, in essence, is all there is to say. This movie has nothing else on its mind, and its particular brand of bathroom humor will either hit the sweet spot for you, or it won't.

If you've seen Jackass, then you're probably familiar with Irving Zisman, Johnny Knoxville's dirty-old-man persona who specializes in public displays of hapless embarrassment. Here, they've crafted an entire movie around him, bound by the loosest of all plot threads but basically sticking Knoxville-as-Zisman in a store or street corner and watching the (real-world) public's response. I confess I prefer Jackass's surreal stunts — something about grown men getting trampled by farm animals just speaks to me — but they're trying something a little different here and for the most part, it works.

Knoxville has a fitting partner in crime for his shenanigans: eight-year-old Jackson Nicoll, playing Zisman's sad-sack grandson. When Mom earns herself a spell in the clink, Irving has to take the lad to his redneck father's house. The old man is less than thrilled about it since his wife just died and he's eager to test the waters of senior singledom. But otherwise, there'd be no movie, so off they go with grandma's stiff corpse in the trunk and a whole gaggle of unsuspecting Americans in their way.

Zisman isn't a character so much as a fulcrum for Knoxville's unique brand of comedy. He and Nicoll tinge the story with shades of sadness -- the pathos of the scenario bleeds out of every scene -- but they're basically there to see what kind of a rise they can get out of innocent bystanders. Zisman gets drunk at a bingo game and hangs out at an all-male stripper revue, while the pair shoplift, crash weddings and generally make asses of themselves. Everyone else looks on with a mixture of bemusement and horror.

The trick is that those reactions are genuine. Knoxville, Nicoll and a couple of incidental players are in on the joke. Everyone else is just plain folk, unaware that they're being filmed and justifiably off-put by the antics they witness. Whatever spark of verite is generated by that scenario, Knoxville knows how to summon it. It's funny stuff… or at least funny enough to hold our attention throughout the majority of the running time. Some of it doesn't work and the film has its share of flat moments where the gross-out humor can't find any traction. But the hit-to-miss ratio is appreciably high, and the last few scenes actually manage to find a little heart amid the epic raunchiness,

Bad Grandpa most closely emulates Borat and similar efforts from Sacha Baron Cohen. But it's not nearly as ambitious as those movies, and as such it doesn't segue into active cruelty the way Cohen's efforts do. Director Jeff Tremaine isn't trying to expose his subjects' inherent flaws or prejudices. Indeed, Bad Grandpa seems to celebrate the tacky underbelly of America: neither judging nor shaming the people it depicts but sharing in the thousand petty exasperations of life with them. At the end of the day the only real idiots onscreen are the old man and his grandson gleefully jerking the public chain. 

You can see that in the closing credits, which includes shots of the subjects chuckling good-naturedly after being told they're in a movie.

It's not everyone's cup of tea and if you've seen the ads you can probably make that call for yourself. But Bad Grandpa doesn't hide its nature, and those who appreciate Knoxville's particular brand of fun are apt to find a very dirty good time waiting for them here. You either laugh or you don't. The naughty boys (of all ages) onscreen know what they're trying to do, and are perfectly fine with either result.


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goldeneyez 10/25/2013 5:05:52 AM

The trailer had me cracking up with the scene of the little boy in the pagent stripping to Warrant.

wish 10/25/2013 6:32:55 AM

You gotta have giant stainless steel balls to do the shit these guys do for a living!  But yeah it makes me laugh like I'm on smilex gas so I'll end up seeing this somehow, someday.

Dazzler 10/25/2013 7:34:43 AM

Niche audience of course, but I am slowing coming around to Jackass stuff.  The 3D Jackass movie actually used the effects perfectly and with purpose.  Wonder why this one not in 3d?

aegrant 10/25/2013 9:06:42 AM

 I usually don't go for the Jackass stuff but the trailers for this have me tearing up they are so funny. I just may sneak into a matinee to watch this.

mlaforce 10/25/2013 7:17:21 PM

@ZillaBitch...What up buddy? Bad Grampa wanted me remind you of  when he sodomized your mother and then ten and half months later you were born, why ten and a half month later? Because Poo really needs to stew...Said you were his A*s Hole baby, that's right, he said his A*s Hole baby...He has a picture of the whole event, you sticking out  like a turtle head all poop pretty and what not, then squeezed out like tooth paste into the bottom of the toilet bowl...It's all so beautiful and tragic at the same time...Anyways, I hope you had a good stroll down memory lane...

momitchell7 10/25/2013 9:53:58 PM

Mla - you and your buddy need to take that stuff somewhere else, because here isn't the place for it and no one cares about what the two of you are going through - only that it's painful to watch.



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