Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa is the fourth in the Jackass film series, released eleven years after the first film hit our screens. The latest in the hidden camera comedy series follows the amoral exploits of Johnny Knoxville’s Irving Zisman and his eight year old grandson Billy, played by Jackson Nicoll.
The film, which is the first since the death of Ryan Dunn, is a wide departure from the exuberant and unpredictable flow of stunts that has been an obvious characteristic of the show since Jackass’ inception. It is underlain with a loose plot which allows the characters to perform pranks in a variety of different locations, similar in that respect to Sacha Baron Cohen’s Borat.
The titular character, Irving Zisman, who many would recognise as the old man whose main gag in previous films was to have his saggy balls fall out in front of unsuspecting onlookers, is enlarged upon in this film, with predictably gross-out results.
The film begins with the death of Zisman’s wife and the news of his daughter’s incarceration, which leaves him with responsibility of minding his grandson Billy. He is charged with the task of getting the young boy to his stereotypically scumbaggy father Chuck, who lives in Raleigh, North Carolina. They set out on the road, causing trouble and outrage on their way.
We are treated, at times, to the deadpan daring of Knoxville, as he faces a host of angry onlookers, such as male strippers, child-friendly bikers and humoured bingo players. There is unmistakeable humour, such as when Zisman tries to mail Billy to his father by post, but much of it hinges on the presence of the eight year old, who is seen as an innocent witness corrupted by the antics of his grandfather. Also, unlikel in a Jackass film, there are flashes of sentimentality as Billy bemoans the idea of living with his verbally abusive father. These scenes are, however, usually brief and often end with a gag to lighten the mood.
This film seems to herald the inevitably of a slow death for the Jackass series. The Jackass crew, seeking to revitalise their series with their first plot based film, have done just the opposite. By playing on long outdated gags and by shackling themselves to a heavily clichéd plotline, the creators of Jackass have come up with a moderately funny film supported by less than moderate acting skills.
Extremely noticeable are the absences of other Jackass members, such as Chris Pontius, Steve-O and Bam Margera whose ability to take pain and extreme humiliation is heavily missed. It seems inexplicable that, after success with their previous film Jackass 3-D, the format should be changed so dramatically. The cause may be the aging of some of the show’s stars or maybe it is an attempt to branch out beyond the old formula. Whatever the reason there may be some call for re-examination before another attempt at the big screen is made.