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Bad Grandpa

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Scott Roberts
Bad Grandpa
on Oct 31, 2013 at 1:51:18 pm

Look, you know what you're going to get out of Bad Grandpa. Going into it I anticipated plenty of poop, child neglect, and horny old man jokes. And that's exactly what I got. If anything, Bad Grandpa is sort of commendable in the fact that it pretty much delivers exactly what you'd expect. No better or worse.

Bad Grandpa, if you are unfamiliar, is the latest Jackass movie, starring only Johnny Knoxville in old man makeup and a little chubby boy who plays his grandson. Most of the rest of the cast is made of normal people who aren't in on the joke. IT COULD HAVE BEEN YOU OR ME!!! Anyway, unlike the other Jackass movies, which were just a series of random pranks/stunts for 90 minutes, Bad Grandpa was a series of loosely tied together pranks/stunts for 90 minutes. It actually has a continuous story to it. And by golly, to my surprise, it even tried to be borderline heartwarming at times.

If you wanted to extract even a tiny nugget of intellectual value out of this movie, it's that it is actually a pretty rewarding social experiment. It sees just how far people will go to live by the "respect your elders" credo. In one prank, Knoxville runs over a large promotional penguin with his car in front of a restaurant, and when the tough guy owner comes out to confront him, Knoxville refuses to fix it. He then goes as far as to openly mock the restaurant owner and insult him to his face. The owner wants to beat the living crap out of the old man, but doesn't, because he's an old man. Had it been young Johnny doing the same routine, he would have left with a pummeled face. A lot of the bits are like this, putting Knoxville in a scenario that would have yielded much different results had he been a different age. I guess that's the point of the movie; seeing how much an old guy can get away with without getting beat up, or in trouble.

Not all of the jokes worked out as well as they would have liked. There was an elaborate set up of a biker gang that they probably wish got a lot more intense, even if it was the only time in the film when I legitimately got scared for an actor's safety. It was too integral to the "plot" to cut out, so we are forced to watch basically the entire thing. Other quick bites, like the flashback of Johnny Knoxville pulling a large fish out of the water that had "rubber privates" attached to it, were so painfully stupid that they kind of got a pity chuckle out of me.

But the biggest problem, comically, with the film is that most of the bits are cut short. Right when they start to get really juicy, they find a way to avoid having it go on any longer. It felt like every joke in this film was far too controlled to hit its full comedic potential. And the fact that they showed reaction shots from all of the victims during the credits being told "HA! YOU'RE ON SCARE TACTICS (Oops, I mean, JACKASS)" just proves the point that no one in this film was really pushed too hard. To me, one of the funniest elements of these Jackass (or Borat) type prank movies/shows is the assumption that the people who become the butt of the jokes go home and think that they saw something genuinely crazy that day. I like thinking about the psychological trauma that Johnny Knoxville is inflicting on people. Trauma that perhaps goes unanswered for the rest of these people's lives. "Oh Merle, you won't *believe* what I saw at the diner this morning..." or "Did I ever tell you about the time that I saw an old man knock over his wife's coffin? It was crazy!" But when all the jokes get cut short and it's revealed that they were relieved of the tension of the joke probably two minutes after it happens, it just sort of takes the balls out of the material. I say that figuratively, of course, because there's still plenty of literal balls in the material.

That being said, this movie still got pretty consistent chuckles out of me. I may even have let out a couple of hearty laughs. The child beauty pageant bit was hilarious. Taking this movie in at its low-brow face value, it's full of lots of funny stuff. As much as it feels like this whole thing could have existed in the bleak, dumbed-down future of Idiocracy, Bad Grandpa is still a welcome comedic addition to have in theaters. I mean, as long as *every* movie that comes out isn't about a guy in old man makeup with testicles hanging out of his underwear crashing his car into things, then I think, as a society, we'll be just fine with having this one movie do it. And another thing that goes without saying: a Jackass project that doesn't feature even one second of Bam Margera should instantly be considered a success.

7 out of 10

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Stephen Smith
Re: Bad Grandpa
on Oct 31, 2013 at 3:42:14 pm

To me, one of the funniest elements of these Jackass (or Borat) type prank movies/shows is the assumption that the people who become the butt of the jokes go home and think that they saw something genuinely crazy that day.

Can they do that? I thought they had to get everyones permission to be on the big screen. I thought we owned the rights to our image? I think Tim has the answer on this.

Stephen Smith

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Mark Suszko
Re: Bad Grandpa
on Oct 31, 2013 at 4:19:38 pm

Like Borat and others, this movie is not 100 percent real; I would imagine most every public scene had *some* pre-staging and people "in" on the gag. The Penguin thing for example looks entirely contrived. I don't doubt that *some* bystanders were legitimately taken-in by the scenarios, but most of this has got to be staged to some level, and knowing that makes it all less amusing to me. Even shooting in available light and with tiny cameras, most aware people would probably have twigged to the scenario in short time. Then what's interesting is how and if they play along.

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Tim Wilson
Re: Bad Grandpa
on Oct 31, 2013 at 6:17:21 pm

I'd have to look it up, but you raise an interesting question Stephen. I would THINK it's like Candid Camera where people would sign releases after the fact. Most people are pretty good sports, and an awful lot of of folks kinda like watching this sort of thing, and will play along when it's their turn in the barrel..

You've also seen people in the America's Funniest Home Videos audience. There's a combination of the sheepish "Yeah, my kid hit me in the nuts with a whiffle bat," and "Woo-hoo! Did you see my kid hit me in the nuts with a whiffle bat? HE HIT ME IN THE NUTS! Hahaha!" He'll have told all his friends to watch, which they'd do, even though they'd already seen it a million times on the guy's phone. He probablytakes it out to watch for his a cchuckle while he's in line at Starbucks. On TV, in a MOVIE, he's in his 15 minutes and loving it.

For Johnny, you can add that an astonishing number of people either know him or know OF his show or movies. Add the "I'm a good sport, no harm no foul" nature of most people, and I'd think getting releases would typically be a breeze. Most people feel they can survive, and even embrace, certain levels of public humiliation. LOL

Borat can be different. Say, in the Rodeo scene, there's no legal expectation of privacy for anyone in that arena. Sacha may even have posted signs that said "we're shooting a movie, your presence here denotes consent." I've shot in a number of such circumstances, and even with horrifically embarrassing circumstances to MY eye, nobody I talked to minded, and even with wide distribution of the projects, my client never got a whiff of blowback.

Commercials are different because they imply endorsement. All somebody has to do is say "Wait a minute, my endorsement is worth something to me," or "I hate thisproduct and refuse to participate," well, in many circumstances, game over.

Unlike some of my other advice, where I *know* the law, this is just my combination of instinct and experience.

Hey, you can look this up sometime, but the creator-host of Candid Camera was on a plane that got hijacked for reals. He had to keep telling people it wasn't a joke, now sit the f back down before you get us all killed.

Can you imagine being in a bank robbery, and laying on the floor with your hands behind your head, then you see Knoxville laying on the floor two lines over? Same deal. General advice: don't jump up and start yelling "Jackass!"

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