What to do when good things happen in bad movies ...
"Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa" got me thinking. The film is wildly inappropriate, ridiculously raunchy, mindlessly dangerous, comes with a warning label – and yet, I howled at the outrage wrought by 86-year-old Irving Zisman, played with a nifty old-guy limp by Johnny Knoxville.
To start, in this rapidly expanding geriatric nation, and with the "Jackass" crew hitting middle age, it was just the right time for this particular Knoxville character to take center stage.
But how to put the bad behavior into the “proper” perspective for all interested parties? How to make sense of the latest entry in the “Jackass” oeuvre for anyone from the rabid packs of young adult male “Jackass” fans to the completely uninitiated, those who might mistake the movie for a mild-mannered comic take on the aging scene. You know, one of the AARP-approved movies like “Last Vegas” with Michael Douglas and Robert De Niro, which I’m pretty sure “Bad Grandpa” isn’t.
The question comes with an upside. For me at least, this was one of those movies that just crackled with critical possibilities. It was almost as much fun to write about as to see. Although I did issue a public apology in my review for being so entertained – mea culpa baby.
There were, by the way, no apologies from the film’s star. Along with his terrific wingman, young Jackson Nicoll, who played 8-year-old grandson Billy, Irving used every opportunity to test how much an unsuspecting public would tolerate from an outrageous 86-year-old. Knoxville was unrecognizable underneath all those effects, which reminds me, props to the “Bad Grandpa” makeup and effects folks. To say nothing of the stunt coordinators; the “Jackass” franchise has a habit of working them overtime.
The critical community as a whole had a lot to say about the relative merits of "Bad Grandpa." I had almost as much fun reading as writing and watching. Here are a few of my favorite observations from others on the “Bad Grandpa” mayhem: Some loved it, others hated it, most forgave it.
“ ‘Bad Grandpa’ has no goals whatsoever beyond making you snort with base, moronic glee, but when it scores, it scores.” – Tim Robey, Daily Telegraph
“ ‘Bad Grandpa’ shows there’s still comic life in this decade-old franchise — provided, of course, the sight of a senior citizen getting his penis caught in a vending machine is the kind of thing that brings a smile to your face. -- Scott Foundas, Variety
“When Knoxville's bad, he's very very bad. But when he's good, he's wicked.” -- Charlotte O’Sullivan, This Is London
“The trick to such humor involves persuading the audience to squirm and laugh at the same time. ‘Grandpa’ triggers merely the squirming, and you can get that from a mild case of hemorrhoids.” -- Donald Clarke, Irish Times
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“No one will ever mistake the Jackass franchise for good cinema, but it never aspired to that.” -- Kyle Ryan, The A. V. Club
“Total cinematic junk food, but that doesn't mean it isn't sinfully tasty while it lasts.” -- Dustin Putman, DustinPutman.com
And finally from John DeFore of the Hollywood Reporter – “Fortunately, one presumes that narrative cohesion is not the highest criterion by which fans will judge it.”