Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa

Well, this was technically a movie.

A long time ago, there was a TV show on MTV called Jackass. Well, it was technically a TV show, since all it really consisted of was a bunch of idiots seemingly tried to kill themselves by willingly torturing themselves in front of a camera. This was one of the stupidest and most hilarious TV shows of all time that was later adapted into three feature length movies. Well, they were technically movies, since all they really consisted of were those same guys torturing themselves, only on film instead of video. These were three of the stupidest and most hilarious films of all time. And now there's Bad Grandpa, which is a feature length adaptation of a reoccurring bit that appeared in those earlier Jackass incarnations, where series star Johnny Knoxville put on old man makeup and tortured himself, grossed out everyone around him, and just generally made of an ass of himself.

Anyway... if you liked any of the earlier versions of Jackass, you'll like this. And if you didn't, then... well... lord help you, because I sure can't. I'm not saying Jackass is high art. I'm not even saying that Jackass isn't absolute shit intended solely to get a chuckle out of the lowest common denominator. I'm simply saying I love Jackass, I just saw Bad Grandpa in the theater, and I can't remember when I've ever laughed more in my life.

I will admit I had my doubts going in... and I realize how insane that sounds.After paying money to see three movies where they shoved a matchbox car up some guy's ass then sent him to a doctor to get X-Rayed and shaved patches of pubes from the entire crew and tricked one of the actors into gluing them to his face as a fake beard, I should have lost my right to be a discriminating film-goer, but I dunno. I never really loved the old man skits from the earlier films. They were a little too gross, and most of the bits relied too much on shocking or embarrassing real, unsuspecting people. But then I decided to check out the trailer, and ended up laughing so hard I turned it off because I didn't want another second more to be spoiled. And then I went to see it the next morning.

This wasn't exactly Jackass 4, but it's the closest we're probably ever going to get, and I'm happy to say it was very, very funny. I'll admit that it started strong and ended strong, but there was a bit of a lull in the middle. It was never boring and it never stopped being funny, but one of the things that kept the original Jackass trilogy from getting stale was the extended cast and the sheer variety of stunts and bits they threw in. This one is just Johnny Knoxville and the actor playing his grandson, and while they were both great, the Irving Zisman character was maybe a little too unlikable to really care his own movie.

But then again, that's also kind of the point, and it was very, very funny. I'm simply saying that if you don't have a strong stomach for this kind of uncomfortable, hidden camera comedy, you won't be able to hand this one, since it's the probably the darkest and most uncomfortable movie I've ever seen. But also one of the funniest. I don't want to describe any of the jokes or give any spoilers, but the big finale where the little boy shows off his talent during the beauty pageant was hands down the funniest thing I've ever seen in any movie ever. I don't want to build it up too much, but I was laughing so hard I literally had tears streaming down my face, and even now (about 45 minutes after the ending of the film, sitting in a Starbucks as I type this up), my eyes still hurt.

It was also strange for a Jackass movie to make an attempt at a real narrative, although this film had  a "plot" only in the strictest definition of the word. Basically, Knoxville plays an 86 year old man named Irving Zisman, who has to drive his grandson across the country to be reunited with his dad. Along the way they make various stops, where Irving gets his penis trapped in a vending machine, drive over a giant penguin stature, attempt to pick up every woman they come in contact with, and even attempt to strip during ladies night at a seemingly all black night club. Oh, and during the entire trip, they're carrying around the corpse of Irving's dead wife.

Does any of that sound funny? Well... it was, not only because of the shocking audacity of the gags and stunts, but because of the on screen chemistry by Johnny Knoxville and young actor Jackson Nicoll. This kid was good. It's hard enough being just a child actor, but the fact that he pulled off such a great performance in this kind of gross-out, hidden camera comedy was astounding. The plot about his custody battle between the old man and his real father was just a gimmick to have a bunch of poop and dick jokes, but it was surprisingly sweet and moving, mostly because this kid was so good and so lovable. And he was also really funny. There were scenes where he just walked down the street talking to random people, and I have no idea if he was reading from a script, voicing lines provided to him by some kind of hidden ear piece, or just ad-libbing on his own. All I know is he was fucking hilarious and held his own and even stole more than his share of scenes from his co-star.

But, of course, Johnny Knoxville made the movie. I'm an unabashed, unapologetic Johnny Knoxville fan. He'll never win an Oscar or win over the critics, so he'll just have to comfort himself with the praise from bloggers like me... and his millions of dollars. But to be serious for a moment, I think Knoxville is one of the finest and most underrated comedic actors of all time, and as a purely physical comedian, I'd put him up there alongside Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, and Harold Lloyd, and I'm totally not fucking joking. A lot of people can be knocked on their ass by a bull... and a lot of people can make you laugh at that happening, but only Knoxville can do that and force you to keep your eyes on him and not the bull.

And this movie proves that he's also a damn good actor. And, again, I'm not joking. This is maybe the best performance as an old man ever pulled off by a younger actor. Of course, a lot of that had to do with the incredibly realistic makeup, but also because of the way he just carried himself, held his shoulders, walked, and just breathed. The guy can act. I doubt I'll see any actor this year give a more committed or fearless performance.

If I have any complaints about the movie, it's that it didn't really feel enough like a Jackass film, despite the structure and similar stunts. I expected to see at least some cameos by some of the Jackass crew, but nobody showed up. They couldn't even fit in Wee Man? It seems like a huge missed opportunity, and even though Knoxville has always been the star, Jackass just doesn't feel like Jackass without appearances from Steve-O, Bam, and the other idiots. And I'm sure they probably need the work. 

But at the end of the day, it's really just a bunch of dick and poop jokes. But that's ok because they're funny. I'm not recommending this movie, since it is what it is and you'll already know from my description and the trailer if it's for you. All I know is I laughed a lot and I wanted to give my props. Just go see it already.


Drake said...

Great review of the movie and I agree that it can be dark but also extremely funny! I loved it!

Justin Garrett Blum said...

Did you ever see that movie starring Johnny Noxville that wasn't a Jackass movie? What the heck was the name of that? I'm too lazy to look it up. I think it had something to do with the special Olympics. Critics loved that one.

Donald said...

My boy's made a bunch of movies, bro. He's a movie star!

But you're thinking of The Ringer. I never saw it. Critics loved that?

Justin Garrett Blum said...

Oh wait--I just looked it up. The Ringer. Critics didn't like it. heh. I could have sworn I read a bunch of good reviews of it at the time. Maybe it was just the critics I like to read.

Justin Garrett Blum said...

Well, I think it was more that Knoxville was pretty well reviewed in it, even if the movie, itself, wasn't loved.

Donald said...

I'm gonna go buy it.