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Film review: ‘Bad Grandpa’ is like ‘Jackass’ with a plot

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Move over, Borat: Bad Grandpa is about to give your a run for your money.
Jeffrey M. Anderson

Three stars

Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa Johnny Knoxville, Jackson Nicoll. Directed by Jeff Tremaine. Rated R. Opens Friday.

Unlike the episodic Jackass movies, the new Bad Grandpa—with series veteran Jeff Tremaine at the helm and Spike Jonze as a co-writer/co-producer/all-around cohort—has a very loose plot upon which to hang its gross-outs and stunts. It requires the 86-year-old Irving Zisman (Johnny Knoxville) to reluctantly drive his 8-year-old grandson Billy (Jackson Nicoll) from Nebraska to North Carolina, to live with his delinquent dad.

Oddly, the movie plays the old Hollywood card in which grandpa comes to love the little tyke and becomes a better person, but only in Jackass style (also Bad Santa style), wherein not much is really compromised. Irving learns that he can use the boy in his vain attempts to pick up women. He’s not picky, but he prefers the company of black women. (“They used to call me Jizzy Gillespie.”)

Locations of some of the bits, featuring unwitting spectators, include an all-black male strip joint, a bingo parlor, a funeral, a wedding and a biker bar. Fear not: In a couple of slapstick stunts Knoxville is thrown through a window or folded in half.

It’s far from genius, or even coherence. However, the best bit comes close to Borat-like satire. It sends up one of those creepy child beauty pageants: Billy, disguised as a girl, does an adult-worthy stripper dance. The shocked, disgusted pageant parents seem ignorant of the very fine line between this and their own perfect children’s performances. Coming near the end, this sequence, coupled with a few others, sends Bad Grandpa off with a warm, dirty smile.

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