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Article by Teddy Durgin

Bad Grandpa Proves Knoxville Is Still a Jackass

The "Jackass" movies are starting to make me feel my age. I used to laugh and laugh hard at this kind of humor. Back before there was a "Jackass," when I was in school growing up, a kick to the crotch, someone breaking wind, an old man slipping on a banana peel... that was comedy gold! In my 20s, flatulence was losing its comic potential and I'd probably seen a couple thousand hits and kicks to the groin at that point. But the college years were still a not-too-distant memory, and it was still funny to watch friends and assorted hangers-on get wasted and behave badly. "Jackass" was in its heyday when I was in my 30s in the 2000s, especially as a movie franchise. And while I didn't like all of Johnny Knoxville and Co.'s bits, their comic mayhem was perhaps the guiltiest of all pleasures as I segue-wayed into marriage, fatherhood and home ownership. The crew is really getting too old for their brand of shtick. But, with "Bad Grandpa," Knoxville on his own finds a creative way to diffuse the "Aren't you a little too old to still be spraying your own excrement on walls?" knocks. He plays a character twice his age! In "Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa," he resurrects his 86-year-old Irving Zisman character and puts him in a "Borat"-style adventure that is about one-third scripted and two-thirds improvised in the real world among real-life people who have no idea they're being filmed. The movie isn't as funny as if I had seen it when I was in my 20s or 30s. But the big laughs in this are VERY big, and not all of them have been ruined in the commercials. What is really to be admired here, though, is the dedication star Johnny Knoxville brings to this movie. He could easily have gone on auto-pilot at this stage of his oddball career. But the guy actually does some real character work here as Irving. Buried under heavy, but quite convincing prosthetic makeup, Knoxville alters his whole posture, voice and walk to convincingly play a senior citizen. He just IS Irving, and you get the sense that Knoxville really loves playing him. Knoxville's elderly letch takes his unassuming 8-year-old grandson Billy (young actor Jackson Nicoll) on a road trip from Nebraska to North Carolina to reunite the boy with his deadbeat dad. Along the way, they never break character in interacting with everyday people who are unaware that a movie production crew has come in beforehand to the various places featured and set up hidden cameras and microphones. So, when "Irving" goes to a Parcel Plus-style store and tries to mail "Billy" to his dad in a big box, the two ladies working the store are real employees. When "Irving" and "Billy" crash a wedding looking for free food and drink, that's a real-life bride and groom having their nuptials ruined. And so forth. Yes, there is a certain creep factor that comes with this little boy being placed into weird situations no 8-year-old should ever be in. You do have to wonder if his parents were so enthralled with a Hollywood paycheck that they didn't mind their kid drinking beer, swearing, swinging on a stripper's pole and so forth. Again, 10 years ago, I wouldn't have had an issue. But now I'm a dad and really quite old. I could never allow it. OK, the paycheck would have to be VERY big. But I would think long and hard before accepting. At any rate, any film with "Jackass" in its title is going to be a push-the-envelope kind of flick. If you are judging a comedy based solely on its laugh quotient, this one rates a recommend if you see it under the conditions described above... and don't forget the booze. "Jackass Presents:

Bad Grandpa" is rated R for strong crude and sexual content throughout, language, some graphic nudity and brief drug use.

 

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