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Tuesday, September 26, 2023


Review: Oscar-nominated “Bad Grandpa”

Believe it or not, the R-rated film “Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa” has an Oscar nomination.

Except it’s not for Best Film or Best Actor; it is for Best Makeup and Hairstyling. Johnny Knoxville, who stars as the creepy, grumpy grandpa, Irving Zisman, said that if it were not for the makeup, he would not be able to pull off the pranks that he and up-and-coming child actor Jackson Nicoll, who plays grandson Billy, performed.

Like Knoxville’s Jackass body of work, “Bad Grandpa” includes infamous crude stunts and pranks. Unlike his former, there is a plot behind it all: Irving gets stuck with his grandson when the boy’s mother gets sent to jail.  The opportunity arrives to get rid of him when the child’s father decides to take him in. Thus, both grandfather and grandson hop in the car and travel across the country to their destination.

Irving was reluctant at first to take Billy himself; after all, he just became single and was ready to mingle. In the beginning of their journey, they went their separate ways, with Irving mouthing out lame pick-up lines while Billy sat and waited at the motel. Nevertheless, the pair eventually got together and became involved in many adventurous hoaxes. Billy even became Irving’s wingman. Throughout it all, a relationship formed, and they ended up bonding by resonating bodily functions over breakfast, which is kind of heartwarming.

“Ask me what the secret of comedy is,” Irving tells Billy while they’re on the road. Right before Billy could answer, Irving says, “Timing!” It is timing that aids the pair with the slapstick comedy, from the broken children’s ride to “posting and shipping.” While the onlookers are not in on the joke, they take the bait. Sometimes, Knoxville and crew would wait awhile to find the person who would take the first bite, and sometimes they take on more than they could chew.

The reactions are priceless. While many look on in shock and dread, either clutching their hearts or turning their backs on Irving to avoid him, others would react charging. It is the latter that Knoxville himself chomps into; this is where he improvises and turns the jokes on them. All of these scenes will not only have you laughing out loud, but gasping along with them, making your jaw drop in disbelief. This is “scripted reality” at its finest.

As for his juvenile co-star, Nicoll is impressive himself. While other child actors would freeze in (faux) real situations such as walking around looking for his grandfather or being packaged in a box, Nicoll kept his cool all throughout.  Moreover, his own timing is just right. It’s as if Knoxville took him under his wing to train him for the next generation of Jackass stuntmen. That probably began when the duo met and worked on their last film, “Fun Size,” in which Nicoll made Knoxville his target all throughout filming. Knoxville was so impressed, he recommended Nicoll for “Bad Grandpa.”

Which is probably a good thing — Knoxville himself said his body is in bad shape. When he went to the doctor to get his hand checked out, the doctors discovered he had a few old, healed injuries. Someone will eventually have to step in his shoes and take over.

Nevertheless, he still likes to perform stunts. Like his character, Irving, he’s still got it. Perhaps on future film projects, when he is old enough, Nicoll will be by his side.

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