Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa - DVD Review

'Even by Jackass’ relatively broad standards, this is consistently weak stuff'.

You enter into any Jackass film with pretty straightforward expectations. High-brow entertainment of depth or intellect is just not what the Jackass boys do. You go in expecting juvenile humour, ridiculous stunts and shock-based pranks much the same as the Jackass crew have been providing since their original MTV series was first shown all the way back in 2000. Whilst not a Jackass devotee, I remember watching the first two movies produced by the group during my university days and enjoying them for what they were. Unfortunately, the same was not the case with Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa.

Essentially taking the Jackass formula and attempting to mould it into something new, Bad Grandpa just doesn’t work. The biggest change here is that of an attempt at narrative. Whereas previous Jackass films have fairly comfortably transferred the TV show’s format of a series of unconnected stunts into a feature length film, Bad Grandpa tries to tie its content together with the story of Irving Zisman (Johnny Knoxville), the titular grandparent of questionable morals, and his grandson Billy (Jackson Nicoll).

Whilst the story clearly plays second fiddle to the pranks throughout, that doesn’t excuse the frankly amateurish way it’s strung together. After an opening act involving the death of Irving’s wife Ellie (a small and frankly dumbfounding cameo by Catherine Keener) which, in relative terms, provides Bad Grandpa’s most successful moments, the brief narrative scenes essentially feel like lazy connecting sequences that the filmmaker’s realised they had to throw in to keep the story idea going, rather than to make the film any better. It also doesn’t help that Nicoll’s performance is weak - any scenes where he’s away from Knoxville fall flat - and that the central pair barely develop any chemistry between them.

The failure of the narrative wouldn’t matter so much if Bad Grandpa’s stunts delivered; but, for the majority of the film, they just don’t. True, there are a couple of giggles to be had here and there, but most of what Bad Grandpa has to offer feels dated, predictable and far too contrived. An early gag has Irving get his penis caught in a vending machine. The reason? After going to two sex shops and finding both closed, he is unconvincingly driven to sate his carnal urges by making use of the drink dispenser slot. Even by Jackass’ relatively broad standards, this is consistently weak stuff. It also doesn’t help that, for many of the film’s pranks, the public don’t provide the reactions those involved were clearly hoping for. Time and again, those not in on the joke fail to deliver, cementing further the feeling that the ideas on show here just aren’t very good.

Bad Grandpa ultimately leaves you with a feeling of desperation on the part of Knoxville and everyone else involved. Jackass feels like a turn-of-the-21st-Century phenomenon, something which worked at the time but now needs to be left alone if it’s to retain its crude, grotesque charm. Putting out lame spin-off ideas such as this does nothing for the franchise but water it down. Bad Grandpa lives up to the adjective in its title, but for all the wrong reasons.

By Ben Broadribb. Ben is a regular contributor to Film Intel, having previously written at Some Like It Hot Fuzz. He is normally seen in the wild wearing t-shirts containing obscure film references. He is a geek, often unashamedly so. He's also on and Twitter.

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