Having never been much of a Jackass fan when the show was on or when the movies were first released, I wasn't even aware that Johnny Knoxville played characters like Irving, the lead in this year's spin-off Bad Grandpa.
Having enjoyed Sacha Baron Cohen's recent-ish documentary-style antics (Borat, Bruno), a bunch of stuff by Tom Green, French joker Francois Damiens and hidden camera shows like Trigger Happy TV, I went into Bad Grandpa expecting pretty much what the trailer promised: light-hearted, dumb, awkward lols and the occasional silly stunt. What I got was basically that but tied together by a "storyline" and packed full of hit-and-miss jokes. Bad taste is, of course, the type of humour the film is going for and when it sticks to that it does rather well. It's juvenile as hell and you'll feel a bit bad for laughing here and there but whatever, that's Bad Grandpa. The core idea of the film, a horny, dirty old man going around the country causing mayhem, wasn't a bad one, even if taking the piss of old people is a bit of an odd endeavour to say the least. The "plot" sees Irving crossing America in order to bring his mischievous grandson Billy (Jackson Nicoll) to his slob father, along the way they have a ball doing a whole bunch of crazy stuff, inexplicably pissing off random people just for the hell of it. Some of that is admittedly amusing but some of it falls dead flat. Probably because the film tries hard to create an awkward atmosphere in various settings, and it does that well, but very often it forgets to include actual jokes in there, or funny ones at least. Perhaps Knoxville's improvisational skills aren't always up to scratch, or perhaps the ideas they have for these set-ups aren't very well thought through.
The film suffers from that but also from the fact that this type of movie has been done before, many times, and better and now that genre is getting a little old. It's not enough to have something random happen then cut to endless reaction shots of real people edited in to pace a particular joke anymore, there needs to be more than that. Bad Grandpa attempts a more elaborate stunt when it puts the little kid in drag and sends him off to a pageant but the whole thing is so clearly taken from Little Miss Sunshine that it doesn't feel all that original, plus it ends somewhat abruptly. That's another thing, jokes are never given time to build naturally, usually something happens and we just cut to something else. Some highlights that work include making two delivery guys dump a corpse in the back of a car, a trip to some strip club in the middle of ladies night and some bingo parlour shenanigans. Bruno was a little hit-and-miss also but the stunts and the jokes that worked were so funny that, in the end, it basically worked. It was a memorably goofy flick. Bad Grandpa feels like it'll be forgotten soon enough, even if it did kick Gravity off the box-office top spot that one time. Serves it right for wasting Catherine Keener and Spike Jonze's time, I guess.
All in all, I didn't hate Bad Grandpa but I didn't love it either. Chances are, you'll have a reasonably decent time watching it as it does have its fun moments. Don't expect to remember it the next day, though.