by Hope Madden
If you can look past the entire scenes that Bad Grandpa lifts from Borat, Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, and Little Miss Sunshine, you might see two things: 1) A lot of Columbus, Ohio 2) A decent little comedy.
A Jackass production, the film operates Borat-style, as “grandpa” has to drive cross-country to deliver his grandson to a sketchy father. The two stop periodically along the way to convince polite Midwesterners, such as the kindly folks at my neighborhood diner Paul’s 5th Avenue (don’t you dare call it Paul’s Pantry!) that both man and boy are behaving very badly.
There are some really inspired moments, as well as a lot of asinine entertainment. Part of what makes the film work as well as it does is the obvious delight Johnny Knoxville, playing Grandpa Irving, takes in his young co-star Jackson Nicoll. And why not? Nicoll is genuinely delightful.
The kid’s hilarious – a deadpan genius – and Knoxville makes excellent use of his wee accomplice as well as some pretty effective old man make up to prank the unsuspecting grocery clerk, stripper, biker, mover, mourner, wedding guest, and Grandview Heights restaurant patron.
The film’s antics are mild when compared to the rest of the esteemed Jackass canon, and connecting them with a narrative sometimes works but often doesn’t. The same can be said for the string of hanging-testicle sight gags.
Bad Grandpa often feels forced and a bit derivative, but when it hits, it’s hilarious and there’s no denying the joyous chemistry of the two leads. Their giddy charisma is infectious, and it makes for a shamefully enjoyable waste of 90 minutes. (But be sure to waste the full 90 as the outtakes and behind-the-scenes shots are characteristically amusing.)