Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa
Cert: 15 / 92 mins / Dir. Jeff Tremaine
Well, it took its time, but it's finally happened. This week's 'take two' screening at my local was a one that they didn't show when it was first released. Ah well, better late than never, right?
Er, right. So the Jackass team have given us what is essentially a hidden-camera show with a plot. And if that sounds like it shouldn't quite work, you'll be relieved to hear that it doesn't; certainly not for an hour and a half, at any rate. The story follows Irving Zisman (Johnny Knoxville) as he drives his 8yr old grandson Billy (Jackson Nicoll) across the US to meet with the boy's estranged father. Meticulously staged pranks are fired out in rapid succession, and linked by in-character banter between the two leads. Jaws drop, as do trousers, and hilarity ensues.
Now… some of the pranks are very funny, whereas the gradual majority of them are merely 'okay'. They have their moment, but seem to be played out for slightly too long, and the sketch ends shortly after you stop laughing/chuckling/smirking. The worst-case example of this is the Cherry Pie stunt from the trailer. In the context of the promo it's a lot snappier, but the build-up of the movie-version's drawn out to the point where you're willing it to crack the joke and move on. It's also the one piece of the film which feels like genuine satire, and while this would normally be a good thing, the thought-provoking humour seems at odds with the scene where an 86yr old man sprays his own excrement across the wall of a busy restaurant*1. In addition to this, the vast majority of the skits don't really have an end, because at some point the director has to come in and tell everyone they've been set up for a movie before waving release forms around (we see some of this behind the end credits). So before this happens, the camera lingers for slightly too long on no-one saying anything, and then cuts to a dialogue scene in the car between Irving and Billy…
…which is my other bugbear. No-one in the audience actually believes the narrative that's playing out on any level, so the conversations between the boy and his grandfather are largely pointless, especially as they're mostly alone for these and performing only to each other and the camera. The thing that really sells the film is the reactions of people who aren't acting, so when you remove them from the equation, you're left with two poker-faced actors and an age-gap that makes most of their dialogue creepily inappropriate. The final scene is also redundant, as there are seemingly no members of the public around to witness the audacious stunt/calback, and the dialogue rounds off a story which you weren't following anyway.
But, Bad Grandpa does have some incredibly amusing gags (and in the bar-scene, an incredibly brave cast). It's worth watching, but when it's on the TV, and with a few beers on the go.
The bottom line is, "it's not a film". But maybe I'm just examining it too closely?
I suppose it is, yes.
Sometimes yes, often no.
Probably. That's the worst part.
No, but there is a boot-shot.
Did Catherine Keener still get paid in full, considering all of her speaking-scenes (which we see in out-takes behind the credits) were cut? That looks like a lot of footage to lose.
*1 I've got to be honest with you, that one did make me guffaw.
• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
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