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Bad Grandpa **1/2

Is it worth $10? Yes

We know we’re in for some twisted humor in “Bad Grandpa” when 86 year-old Irving Zisman (Johnny Knoxville), upon being told that his wife is dead, responds with a smile, “I thought she’d never die.” He then looks at his penis, tells it he’s free, and proceeds to get it stuck inside a vending machine.

What did you expect from Knoxville and director Jeff Tremaine, the guys who gave us “Jackass”? With his daughter (Georgina Cates) headed off to jail, Irving is forced to transport his grandson Billy (Jackson Nicoll) from California to North Carolina so Billy can be with his father. Along the way Knoxville and Nicoll, as Irving and Billy, encounter real people and pull practical jokes, which the audience witnesses via hidden camera. Although three screenwriters are credited there was a fair amount of improv in these sequences by necessity, as Knoxville and Nicoll did not know what the real-life individuals would say or do at any given time. This is “Borat”-esque in that unsuspecting individuals become part of the gag, though in terms of execution the movies are quite different.

The pleasant surprise of “Bad Grandpa” is that Knoxville never makes innocent individuals the butt of the joke. Therefore we’re able to laugh at the awkwardness, at the situation, at what’s said and at what’s done, but we’re never laughing at people. In an odd way, this makes everything about the film more likeable. Granted, there’s a fair amount of property damage and some, like the tough guy who gets bent out of shape when a penguin statue gets run over, make fools of themselves, but most of the time it’s the reaction of others to what’s happening that makes the scenes funny.

You will not be surprised to learn there’s little flow to the story; it essentially plays like a sketch comedy stretched over 92 minutes, with Tremaine moving Knoxville and co. from one scenario to the next and hoping for comedy gold. Expectedly, there are some hits and misses: The children’s beauty pageant, airbag explosion and hitting on random women on the street with Billy scenes are a success, while the male strip tease, underage drinking and wedding disaster feel forced. After a while it all gets a bit old, but overall the story doesn’t wear out its welcome.

Be sure to stay for the credit cookies at the end, during which you see Knoxville revealing himself to his marks and (mostly) everyone getting a big laugh out of the situation. If the people agreed to sign a release, they had a chance to be in the film. Some didn’t sign, which is understandable, but it’s their loss, as “Bad Grandpa” has a surprisingly sweet heart and isn’t nearly as inane as we have every right to expect. For the creators of “Jackass,” that’s high praise.

Did you know?
In the film we see two people help Irving put his wife’s dead body in his trunk; in real life two other people also agreed to help dispose of the body, but many more called the police, only to learn that the body was fake and there were hidden cameras everywhere. More on this here:

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