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(2013) (Johnny Knoxville, Jackson Nicoll) (R)

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Comedy: A frequently inappropriate elderly man takes his 8-year-old grandson on a road trip to return the boy to his deadbeat father.
Irving Zisman (JOHNNY KNOXVILLE) has just lost his wife of many years, and he couldn't be happier. It means this 80-something old man can now date again after not having had sexual relations since the 1990s. But his plans are put on hold when his daughter, Kimmy (GEORGINA CATES), is sent to prison for drugs and his 8-year-old grandson, Billy (JACKSON NICOLL), becomes his responsibility.

Irving knows what he must do. He must drive the kid from Lincoln, Neb., to Raleigh, N.C., to reunite him with his deadbeat dad, Chuck (GREG HARRIS), a dope-smoking never-do-well who really doesn't want anything to do with the kid. Chuck, though, changes his mind when he learns he can get $600 from the state for being a single parent with the other parent in jail.

So, Irving and Billy set off on a road trip in which the two get into all sorts of misadventures. Irving gets into trouble at an African-American strip club, runs afoul of a supermarket manager after shoplifting, and crashes a wedding. Billy, meanwhile, enters a beauty pageant as a girl and causes an uproar when he performs a dance routine best left to the gentlemen's clubs his very bad grandpa frequents.

OUR TAKE: 5.5 out of 10
When most reviewers will be sitting down to write about the new "Jackass Presents Bad Grandpa," they'll be eager to tell their readers how this is a guilty pleasure and that they were ashamed to laugh at some of the antics. They'll focus on the scenes you probably already know if you have seen the trailer or the commercials now playing in which real people are duped "Borat" style when suddenly presented with outrageous situations involving a lecherous, elderly grandfather and his 8-year-old grandson. There is the corpse falling out of its coffin at a funeral; the grandpa of the film's title letting it all hang out literally at a strip club for African-American women; and, of course, the young grandson dressing up as a girl at a children's beauty pageant and then performing a striptease routine to Warrant's "Cherry Pie."

Those are indeed big laughs and, yes, they are oh so wrong. But the thing I want to focus on is the dedication star Johnny Knoxville brings to this film. He could easily go on auto-pilot at this stage of his oddball career. But the guy actually does real character work here as Irving Zisman. Buried under heavy, but quite convincing prosthetic makeup, Knoxville changes his whole posture, voice, and walk to convincingly play a senior citizen often interacting with real senior citizens. He just IS Irving, and you get the sense that Knoxville really loves playing the character. There is a lot to be said for a performer not playing down to base and vulgar material, but really embracing it and going for broke.

How much you laugh at "Bad Grandpa" depends almost entirely on two things -- your sense of humor and how many people are in the theater when you will be watching this flick. If you still laugh at things like people passing gas, little kids cursing, and slapstick harm coming to elderly people, this is going to be a laugh riot for you. And if you see the movie this opening weekend with the big and responsive crowds, I think the communal experience will be worth the outlay of cash.

But I can't see this being nearly as funny in a couple of weeks with only a smattering of people in each theater or a couple of months later watching it alone or with a small group on DVD or pay-per-view. Not without significant alcohol.

This is indeed one of those "Borat"-style flicks featuring Knoxville's elderly letch and his seemingly unassuming 8-year-old grandson (young actor Jackson Nicoll) going on a road trip from Nebraska to North Carolina and interacting with real people who are unaware that a production crew has come in beforehand to the various places featured and set up hidden cameras and microphones. So, when "Irving" goes to a Parcel Plus-style store and tries to mail his little grandson to his deadbeat dad in a big box, the two ladies working the store are real people. When "Irving" and "Billy" crash a wedding looking for free food and drink, that's a real-life bride and groom having their reception ruined. And so forth.

The film's humor is very hit or miss. There aren't many small laughs. But the big laughs are VERY big! And not all of them have been ruined in the commercials and trailers. This is also one of those flicks where it is worth sitting through the entire end credits to see how they made the film, as there is much footage of what happens when the real people find out how thoroughly they've been duped. On the downside, any halfway decent person will likely find it a bit tough to watch the little boy in this film being placed into situations and settings where he truly shouldn't be. But this a push-the-envelope kind of flick. And the beauty pageant skewering is indeed some kind of genius.

I actually prefer the regular "Jackass" movies to this, because the bits are more varied. Basing a whole movie around Irving Zisman IS daring. "Bad Grandpa" doesn't quite work as a complete feature film. But if you are just judging a comedy based solely on its laugh quotient, this one rates a recommend if you see it under the conditions described above. In fact, it rates a 5.5 out of 10. (T. Durgin)

Reviewed October 22, 2013 / Posted October 25, 2013

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