Wednesday, November 13, 2013

It Came From The Cineplex: Bad Grandpa

Bad Grandpa was directed by Jeff Tremaine and co written by Tremaine and Johnny Knoxville. 

The film stars Knoxville in heavy prosthetic makeup as the title character Irving Zisman, and consists of a series of hidden camera pranks loosely stitched together by a thin plot. Think Borat and you'll have the right idea. 

Knoxville had played the Zisman character before in several of the Jackass films and apparently decided the time was right for an entire film based on him.

Though the film is definitely crude, it's far less violent and outrageous than previous Jackass outings, and also the only one with a plot (such as it is).

The real stars here are the unsuspecting bystanders who witness Zisman's various indiscretions. All are horrified by the curmudgeon's antics, but most seem willing to cut him an extra bit of slack due to his perceived age. A younger character trying these stunts would have probably received a punch in the nose before it was over. 

The pranks vary wildly in quality; some are hilarious while others limp across the screen in an effort to pad the run time. Luckily the pranks are all short so the sub par ones are whisked out of sight before they wear out their welcome. 

The standout was probably the funeral at the beginning of the film, complete with a corpse tumbling from an overturned casket in front of horrified guests who try to put on a brave face and shakily sing a hymn.

It's an odd film-- you can't help but be aware it's all a put on, but you still end up getting caught up in the bonding between Zisman and his grandson.

The Plot:
Irving Zisman is an 86 year old man whose wife Ellie has just passed away. At the funeral he's greeted by his daughter, who informs him she's going to jail for violating her parole and is leaving her 8 year old son Billy with him. 

Zisman then embarks on a cross country trip to take Billy to his deadbeat dad in North Carolina. Hijinx ensue as Zisman and Billy prank unwitting subjects during their road trip.

There's really not much point in dissecting a film like this as there's little in the way of a plot to nitpick. But I'll give it the old college try. 

• It's hard to believe, but the film actually has a sentimental side, particularly in the scenes in which Zisman and young Billy bond.

• There's a scene in a diner in which Zisman and Billy have a farting contest. It ends abruptly when Zisman inadvertently sharts on the wall behind him.

I'm confused by the mechanics of how he could splatter the wall so violently while fully clothed. 

• The only reason Billy's deadbeat dad agrees to take him in is for the $600 a month welfare check he'll bring into the home. Zisman hands Billy over to him, then changes his mind and takes him back. The dad gives him up with nary an argument. 

Realistically it seems like there would be a lengthy and complicated custody trial.

• The child beauty pageant ending was lifted pretty much scene for scene from Little Miss Sunshine.

Crude, rude and not as shocking as it thinks it is, Bad Grandpa is still amusing if you're into that sort of thing. I'm aware it ain't highbrow art, but it managed to make me laugh a couple of times, which is more than I can say for most so-called comedies these days. I give it a B-

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