I’d never put myself down as a massive fan of the Jackass having only watched one or two instalments of the franchise but when I saw the trailer for Jackass presents The Bad Grandpa, I knew that I had to run to my nearest film theatre, and I’m very glad that I did.
The film centres around one of the actual characters from Jackass, Irving. It is not clear whether the film is going to hold up for an entire feature length film at first, considering we’re used to seeing Jackass movies being a series of continuous stunts and sketches instead of having an actual plot but they actually pull it off effortlessly even though it was a bit of a slow-burner at the beginning.
The main plot is about Irving taking his grandson across America to stay with his dead beat father after his mother has to be sent to prison for drugs…again. At first there are all the normal crude jokes we are used to seeing with the Jackass guys, but this seemed a bit too contrived especially the scene when Irving gets his penis stuck in a vending machine to the dismay of passers-by – and a few phone snaps for the road. With co-writer Spike Jonze who has films such as Being John Malkovich in his repertoire, you’d think there would be a bit more of a slicker start to the film and you feel a little deflated but it actually improves greatly.
In fact, immensely. As the film moves on the plot becomes tighter and more raucous and side splittingly funny: an attempt by Irving to post his grandson across America in a large cardboard box to the climax where we see a Little Miss Sunshine-style ending at a beauty pageant which will leave you feeling slightly uncomfortable but crying with laughter at the same time. The real star of the film is Knoxville’s young sidekick, Jackson Nicoll, who plays his grandson Billy. Nicoll superbly plays his role even when put in some pretty crazy situations, and even instigates his own improvisations (casually going up to random men and asking them to adopt him or having a conversation with randomers about his mother’s crack addiction and inability to look after him in crowded waiting rooms). It is great to see a child perform such a role, as a lot of it was improvised and on the spot which many an accomplished actor I do not feel would have been able to deliver as well as Nicoll.
Overall, if you’re looking for a film with a deep inner meaning perhaps stay at home. But, if you’re a big fan of Jackass and their sometimes crass humour, go and watch this film. It does not try to be something its not. It’s not a Borat film, where its purpose is to make you laugh but think about the political satire surrounding the plot. Its sole motivation is to get you laughing until howl and I definitely did that through the film. Sometimes that’s all you need.