'Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa' review: What a joke

RedEye's Matt Pais and Ernest Wilkins discuss the disappointing, overwritten thriller and the idea-free, moronic comedy.

* (out of four)

The funniest thing about “Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa” is that its old-man makeup job surpasses similar work in “legitimate” movies like “Cloud Atlas” and “J. Edgar.” In “Grandpa,” Johnny Knoxville looks passably like an 86-year-old man. How about that.

Otherwise, this moron-a-thon succeeds in being dumber than the occasionally inspired, frequently disgusting “Jackass” movies, which at their best allow viewers to test the abilities of the human body without actually risking their own. “Bad Grandpa” foolishly creates a thin plot in which sex-crazed Irving Zisman (Knoxville) drives his 8-year-old grandson, Billy (Jackson Nicoll), from Nebraska to North Carolina to reunite with the boy’s deadbeat father. This allows opportunities for the fictional characters to act like stupid jerks so that real, unwitting people will look surprised and uneasy. It happens as Irving loads the body of his late wife into a trunk. It happens as grandpa introduces his penis to a soda machine with painful, stretchy results. It happens as super-white Irving goes to a strip club, attended exclusively by black women watching black men dance, and strips to his tighty-whiteys.

What never happens is “Bad Grandpa” capturing any moments that shed light on the people being pranked, a la “Borat.” Instead, “Bad Grandpa” lazily follows the standard of “Bad Santa” and “Bad Teacher” by considering how an ordinary, appropriate person would act and then having the character do the opposite. Since this is a “Jackass” production, you can pretty much cue the farts.

Those laughing because I said “fart” will delight in this weekend’s arrival of the unofficial, straight-to-DVD sequel “Bad Grandpa 1.5,” weirdly featuring Catherine Keener and co-writer Spike Jonze (“Where the Wild Things Are”). I’ll pass on that after “Bad Grandpa,” in which Irving smells a papaya ad because it looks like female anatomy and says, “My Spanish name is El Macho Ding Dong.” Though that’s not as unpleasant as seeing the troublemaker crash a wedding and destroy the cake.

If it’s wrong to feel for people whose wedding day becomes the victim of a pointless stunt, I don’t want to be right. 

Watch Matt on “You & Me This Morning,” Friday at 6:55 a.m. on WCIU, the U

mpais@tribune.com

 

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