86-year-old Irving Zisman is on a journey across America with one of the most unlikely companions, his 8 year-old grandson Billy in "Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa". Irving Zisman (Johnny Knoxville) and Billy (Jackson Nicoll) will take movie audiences along for the most insane hidden camera road trip ever captured on camera. Along the way Irving will introduce the young and impressionable Billy to people, places and situations that give new meaning to the term childrearing. The duo will encounter child beauty pageant contestants (and their mothers), funeral home mourners, biker bar patrons and a whole lot of unsuspecting citizens. Real people in unreal situations, making for one really messed up comedy.
Hidden-camera footage has become a prevalent form of modern comedy, to the point where everyday citizens should just pretty much assume that they're being secretly filmed at all times. (Yes, possibly even while reading this.) While the comedic benefits of such unscripted responses can be huge, the use of innocents as unsuspecting punch lines can also seem awfully mean-spirited in the wrong hands. Bad Grandpa, courtesy of the Jackass crew (including producer-cowriter Spike Jonze), somehow manages to navigate the gap between inappropriate humor and unpleasant aftertaste, pranking onlookers in a way that doesn't make them the butt of the joke. Even when going for the grossest of gross-outs (there's a bit with a vending machine in here that should inspire spit takes around the world), it carries a weirdly endearing sweetness. Expanding on a bit from the second Jackass film, the barely there plot follows a recently widowed senior citizen/dirty old man (Johnny Knoxville, under a mountain of alarmingly good makeup). As he attempts to swing back into the single life, he gets saddled with his impressionable 9-year-old grandson (Jackson Nicoll). Cue a bunch of things that cannot be easily described in a clean fashion, including a dance number by Nicoll that may very well herald the end of days. While the setups of each individual prank here rarely vary from the standard Candid Camera formula, director Jeff Tremaine and the exceedingly game Knoxville always find a way to go a bit further with the punch line than expected, often getting extra guffaws out of sheer enthusiasm. (A sequence with a malfunctioning bed is a thing of whiplash-timed beauty.) Their willingness to go the extra mile helps place Bad Grandpa high in the dirty-joke ranks. You may feel guilty for laughing, but in a good way. --Andrew Wright