The Sunday Film Review: Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa
Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa
Director: Jeff Tremaine (2013)
Recently (if this review gets uploaded on time then it’ll be last week) I realised I’d been writing these shitty reviews for over two years. Here is the sum of ‘film review’ knowledge acquired over the last two and a bit years:
The easiest films to write about are the ones that fall into what I classily like to call the Rise of the Planet of the Apes category. Basically, the more soulless or lazy a film production is then ultimately the more mistakes jump out to be savaged. The lazy films also double up as a means of better appreciating for films you love. I tell you, Oldboy never look so appealing to me than right after I just survived watching Déjà Vu. Original not remake obviously, FUCK YOU JOSH BROLIN!
Slightly harder but more rewarding to write about are the really enjoyable films. Enjoyment being an emotional response, it can be hard to pin down exactly why a film is or isn’t enjoyable. It’s even more challenging when you know certain dick mates only read your reviews so they can email you a twelve page itinerary of exactly why they disagree with your points…………… ok that’s not true, I don’t have mates………….. only minions and victims. Anyway, the point is that to feel like you’ve done a truly enjoyable film justice you really do have to carefully consider what you’re going to say. Let’s call that one the Kes category.
But the absolute nadir of film reviewing is when you try to review a film that can accurately be described as ‘meh’. ‘Meh’ films seem to have been deliberately made so you can’t think of anything interesting to say. Sure you can say they’re ok, rate them somewhere around 5 out of 10 and move on, but what’s that? What’s a film review without egotistical phrases, swearing or casual Jimmy Savile references? I wouldn’t know, because it’s not a review I’d read.
The point I’m making is that reviewing a ‘meh’ film is tough. It’s a lot like watching someone successfully ride a unicycle; you know the lack of a second wheel is impractical and that really the whole enterprise is just a sad and pretty pointless cry for attention, but just when you’re ready to point that out, maybe mock the unicycle rider for being something possibly analogous to a vagina, a voice in your head screams that you’re watching something requiring mastery of balance and timing. Something executed by someone who worked hard to hone their chosen craft and that really, the spectacle of someone riding a unicycle really isn’t that bad, just slightly inane.
It’s a challenge then to write anything interesting about a ‘meh’ film. Now watch me prove that by review Bad Grandpa, or Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa as it came to be known between the trailer and cinematic run, because Jackass isn’t dead and gone or anything now that everyone in it realised they’re rich enough to not have to dive in poo anymore…………………. or dead from drink dri……………………… and here’s the plot summary.
Johnny Knoxville (who was by far and away the best thing in another ‘meh’ film, the 2004 Walking Tall remake) dons a bunch of prosthetics to play Irvine Zisman, an 86 year old borderline sex addict. Irvine’s wife dies, then his daughter Ellie (Catherine Keener, I cannot help but feel Bad Grandpa, sorry Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa represents something of a decline considering Keener won awards for her contribution to being John Malkovich) attends the funeral. Ellie is apparently crack addicted, because whenever a film wants a drug addiction to be funny they use the drug named after a part of your arse, and is going to jail. Ellie didn’t turn up the funeral out of mourning, but rather to dump her 8 year old son Billy (Jason Nicoll, who is either a weird but lovable child in real life, or the best damn child actor I’ve ever seen) on Irvine and steal a necklace.
Irvine doesn’t want to look after an, and I quote, ‘8 year old cock-block’ (because old people desiring sex is funny) so he decides to go on a road trip to drop Billy off with his Father Chuck (Greg Harris, who does well with what little time he has). The rest of the film is a zany road trip culminating in a young girls beauty pageant that would have been hilarious if the damn trailer hadn’t shown the entire thing.
Plot summary finishes.
The gimmick of Bad Grandpa, sorry Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa, is it’s really a hidden camera prank. It does the Borat thing of going to various Middle America locations and having its characters act outrageously to film people’s reactions. As with Borat, the strength of each ‘scene’ relies on the strength of the reactions. At times Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa really works, particularly early on where there’s less of a half arsed attempt at a ‘story’ tying it down. One particular scene in a Bingo Hall had me almost wetting myself at how brilliant the people being spoken to were. Honestly it made me consider crossing the pond just to experience bingo for myself, I won’t because I like living somewhere that appreciates the principle of an individual’s right not to be shot………………. Innocent Brazilian plumbers notwithstanding.
Mr Knoxville himself is a man of great timing and makes some strong contributions to the laughs. I really enjoyed his performance, he managed to pull off a character not everyone could have and deliver some brilliant one liners in the process. A particularly funny scene involving a tired bed gag saw him telling a panicked lady to ‘not make it all about you sweetheart’ and earned him a place on my Christmas card list, at least would have if I wasn’t an atheist Jew adverse to both Christmas and lists.
But with the good comes the tired, the old and the bad bad bad-diddly-add. My main criticism of Jackass desperately tries to remind you it was a thing by presenting: Bad Grandpa is that it gets bogged down in a story that really isn’t there. Throughout the film they try to build up Irvine’s blossoming relationship with Billy. They give the two characters tender moments in a car and very deliberate, scripted exchanges to build a story, but then they try and spill it over into the hidden camera stuff. There’s a really contrived scene involving a biker gang where an emotional Irvine leaves Billy with his dad. On an emotional level the scene works about as well as a marshmallow chainsaw on the sun. The problem is that you really can’t convey strong emotional moments with hidden camera pranks.
Imagine Romeo and Juliet was a hidden camera prank film. Juliet stands on a balcony, Romeo underneath declaring his love then the camera turns to the nonplussed expressions of onlookers. Might be watchable as a scene depending on how good the expressions are, but it doesn’t exactly make for a romantically charged moment does it? The problem is that in real life the big emotional moments a person experiences are not only insanely rare, but only possible because their private. There’s a reason why a healthy percentage of the population pour scorn on public wedding proposals unless they end in rejection and abject humiliation. So when a film does want to have a big emotional moment in public, they have this trick where they usually pay the members of the public to react in a certain way and/or give them screen credits, they also rename the members of the public ‘extras’. Revolutionary I know.
So the scene with the biker gang doesn’t work. Actually it’s a bit nasty. A hidden camera prank film, that pulls a ‘prank’ on a well-meaning biker gang (and they’re actually probably the most well-meaning biker gang in the world) by presenting them with an emotional and over the top situation involving an endangered child and a crying elderly man is not funny, nor is it emotional, instead it’s bloody boring. There just isn’t that much mirth to gain from people’s reactions to child abuse. The result is a scene that drags and while I need to emphasise the biker gang scene is the worst offender by far, it’s not the only scene that goes that way.
Away from that, there’s a real over-reliance on dick, fart and horny old man jokes. Having a scene in which Irvine used inappropriate language to proposition a much younger lady was predictable but actually well executed…………… the first time. By the twelfth time (and there were actually more than that, I just lost count at 12) no one in the cinema was laughing…….. to be fair that may have been because there were only 4 of us in the cinema. Jackass clings to social relevance by presenting: Bad Grandpa did the same thing with fart jokes too.
But none of that was a deal breaker. I chose to ‘treat’ the girl who occasionally lets me violate her to JACKASS IS ALIVE SEE! SEE!: Bad Grandpa because she’d had a bad week and needed a laugh…………. which I want to make clear was not my fault…….. and also, I wanted to show her that I can afford cinema tickets because, while I’m not saying she’s a gold digger, I suspect she’s not messing with no broke n……………….
Anyway, Bad Grandpa, which I’ve heard is something to do with that Jackass programme of yesteryear, provided that laugh. It wasn’t hysterical from start to finish, and a stupid amount of the jokes had been given away in the trailer, but we both laughed. It did its job and delivered what was promised by the trailer, which is all it had to do really.
Do I recommend it?
In the right situation, you could do a lot worse. It’s meh and utterly forgettable but watchable, definitely more fun to watch than review.
Written by Sam ‘The Blockbusters is dead, love live The Blockbusters’ McKinstrie
Unnecessarily on twitter as McKinstHFP
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