Bad Grandpa is the latest in the Jackass film stable – and I use the term ‘film’ loosely. The on camera antics of the film’s cast – think Johnny Knoxville, Jackson Nicoll and Greg Harris among others – are not dissimilar to what one might expect from elaborate Funniest Home Videos footage.
Nonetheless Bad Grandpa is the most film-like of all the Jackass movies so far. And unlike previous incarnations in the ‘don’t try this at home’ genre, this effort has a unique feature – a plot. Knoxville plays Irving Zisman, an 87-year-old widower determined to grow old disgracefully, while driving across America to ditch his eight-year-old grandson Billy (Jackson Nicoll) with his irresponsible son-in-law. It’s along this journey that the anticipated high jinks and practical jokes are unfurled on an unsuspecting public.
While it would be kind to call the plot tenuous, having a storyline somehow does manage to add another dimension to the laughs. If you can suspend your disbelief long enough, that is. This proves challenging, particularly during Grandpa Irving and Billy’s interactions in the car. These scenes act as literal and metaphorical vehicles to get us to the next stunt and fail to add any value.
The highlight by far is the beauty pageant scene in which Billy, complete with long blond tresses, performs a seemingly inappropriate strip tease. While the irony in the audience’s disgust is priceless, it feels like this moral subtext may just be a happy coincidence.
And that’s the greatest worry with these films. Believe it or not this prank-fuelled flick actually makes some interesting and poignant comments on society and social responsibility. If only taken at face value, however, Bad Grandpa also has the ability to isolate and oppress certain groups while reinforcing stereotypes. As nice as it is sitting in a theatre full laughter, it’s confronting to ponder whether everyone’s laughing at the same thing.
BY LEE HUTCHISON
Bad Grandpa is in cinemas now.