Movie Review ~ Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa

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The Facts:

Synopsis: 86-year-old Irving Zisman takes a trip from Nebraska to North Carolina to take his 8 year-old grandson, Billy, back to his real father

Stars: Johnny Knoxville, Jackson Nicholl

Director: Jeff Tremaine

Rated: R

Running Length: 92 minutes

TMMM Score: (7/10)

Review: Sometimes it’s just good to laugh and not have to think too hard about it or hate yourself the next day. Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa is a departure from the normal Jackass set-up that gives you free reign to laugh and not worry that you’re doing it at the expense of others.

Though I’ve sat through the first three Jackass movies with a mixture of both horror and laughter I wasn’t sure what to think about their newest film.  The titular character was introduced in previous Jackass films and was used to good effect in the brief segments but how would a feature length film based on the character pan out?  More importantly, what of the gags that the Jackass troupe is known for?  Would they work as well in a structured setting or would they prove to be better suited for the free-form style that had already been successful in the previous entries in the series?

Well, much to my surprise the film is a lot better than I thought it was going to be with more of a focus on funny gags rather than moments to make you gag.  Gags aside, at its heart Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa has a nice message about the bonds of family and the relationships between the young and old.  There’s also a healthy dose of penis jokes…and that never hurts.

Though the film takes a little while to get going, when it does take off it hums along nicely.  After his druggie daughter can’t take care of her son (Jackson Nicholl, Fun Size), she enlists the help of her dad Irving Zisman (Johnny Knoxville, The Last Stand) to deliver the boy to his loser father via a cross country road trip.  Along the way they stop at male strip clubs, beauty pageants, bingo halls, and country kitchen-esque restaurants which provide the settings for quite a few well set-up and usually bravely foul but always bravura pranks.

This film goes beyond one off pranks and finds ways to make these situations actually funny…rather than being funny at the price of humiliating others.  There are some nice slices of life moments when the prank targets wind up making some surprisingly sensitive and honorable decisions when faced with the choices Knoxville and director Jeff Tremaine offer them.  Their reactions may be funny but they also show the good in people at the same time.  Maybe there’s a small softening of the Jackass troupe and there’s a big pay-off to be had if you can just go with it.

The movie actually works best when its just Knoxville and Nicholl in the car during exchanges that feel unscripted but clearly have at least some structure to them.  Both actors are game for fun but it’s not hard to imagine that Nicholl will look back at this in 10 years and cringe at the some of the things he’s asked to do and say to total strangers.

Still…it all seems in good fun and that’s what these movies are ultimately going for anyway.  I think this movie came along when I just needed to laugh – and isn’t that what these films have always been about?  It’s not the throwaway distraction that the other Jackass films have been but a harmless and enjoyable prank-filled trek across the US.

In Praise of Teasers ~ Jaws 3-D (1983)

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I have a serious problem with movie trailers lately.  It seems like nearly every preview that’s released is about 2:30 minutes long and gives away almost every aspect of the movie, acting more like a Cliff Notes version of the movie being advertised rather than something to entice an audience into coming back and seeing the full product.

In this day and age where all aspects of a movie are fairly well known before an inch of footage is seen the subtlety of a well crafted “teaser” trailer is totally gone…and I miss it…I miss it a lot. So I decided to go back to some of the teaser trailers I fondly remember and, in a way, reintroduce them. Whether the actual movie was good or bad is neither here nor there…but pay attention to how each of these teasers work in their own special way to grab the attention of movie-goers.

Jaws 3-D (1983)

It had been five years since JAWS 2 was released to boffo box office so the time was probably right for Universal Studios to revisit its popular franchise.  What started as a second sequel intended to be more of a comedy, ala National Lampoon, turned into something different but no less silly.  I have a certain fondness for JAWS 3D with its ugly grainy picture and lame-o 3D effects…maybe it’s because it’s so earnestly goofy now or maybe it’s because JAWS: The Revenge was so much worse but the film has a certain (albeit resistible) charm.

I remember seeing this teaser trailer when YouTube first went up and thinking it was well done.  1983 was the year of the 3D resurgence and I’m sure audiences were unnerved not only about having another reminder about what dangers look in deep water but also wondering how the technique was going to bring that mean ‘ole great white shark into another dimension.   I’m not sure how well the movie played in theaters but having only ever seen it in 2D, I think the intended effect has been lost.

Bonus! 

Check out the teaser for the final nail in the coffin of the Jaws franchise:

Jaws: The Revenge (1987)

And check out my reviews of the full slate of Jaws films : JAWS, JAWS 2, JAWS 3-D, JAWS: The Revenge

Missed my previous teaser reviews?  Check out my look at Alien, Misery, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Showgirls, and Jurassic Park!