‘Bad Grandpa’ Blu-ray Review
Academy Award nominee Jackass presents Bad Grandpa… Hell may now begin to freeze over.
The Movie Itself
It may be hard to believe, but the biggest shock at this year’s announcements of the Academy Award nomination (besides that Alone But Not Alone movie, which is no longer a nominee) was that a Jackass movie has been nominated for an Oscar. Sure, it’s just a make-up nomination, but think about it: Lee Daniels The Butler, Fruitvale Station, and Rush were shut out completely.
Bad Grandpa is actually the first Jackass film to tell a linear story, instead of all the little stunts rolled up into a 90 minute movie. The film stars Johnny Knoxville as Irving Zisman, a rambunctious old cuss that appeared in some quick gags in the prior films. Here, Knoxville has to sustain the character for a full film, and he does a great job. When we first meet Irving, he just finds out that his longtime wife passed away. His first stop after hearing the news of her death is an adult theater and a massage parlor.
At the service for his wife, his daughter arrives, pulling her son, Billy (Jackson Nicoll) behind her. She is being sent to prison and dumps the boy off in the middle of the funeral to stay with Irving. In a decision to keep Billy, Irving sells all of his wife’s possessions, puts her body in the trunk of the car, and heads off on a cross-country adventure with the boy. From here on out, the film becomes a mini-Jackass, as Knoxville and company set-up stunts to elicit a response from onlookers. It’s the new generations ‘Candid Camera’.
As in any Jackass film, a disclaimer that says “Do not attempt anything done in this film. Performed by professional stuntmen” does show up. And there is a reason. The comedy in these films is brought on by the reactions of everyday people witnessing what is going on. An early example is a rocket ship ride in front of a store. It doesn’t work when Billy gets in, But when Irving climbs up, the ship crashes through the store window. As the film progresses, the stunts get bigger and while some of them become uncomfortable for the audience to watch, others are gut-busting funny.
What makes the film work so well is the relationship between Irving and Billy. While Knoxville has a blast by being loud and offensive, Nicoll is the films heart. The kid has great comic timing and improv skills, an incredibly expressive face, and the ability to play straight-man to Knoxville’s antics. The film’s highlight is a sequence at a little girl beauty pageant, where Nicoll dresses in drag and competes against a bunch of obnoxious child pageant queens and their stage mothers. The talent competition is a riot.
Directed by Jeff Tremaine, the film is inconsistent at times. He forces the audience to wade through long drawn-out situations to get to the comic payoffs. Unfortunately, most of those payoffs were shown in the trailers, such as the afore mentioned child beauty pageant. One thing that may be difficult for Tremaine is that he hasn’t had to actually direct a film with some sort of actual script before. Sure, Bad Grandpa is mostly ad-libbed, relying on real-life people for their responses, but there is still a story being told here. This is very different from all the Jackass films, which are all just stunts and skits.
Jackass Presents Bad Grandpa is a fairly enjoyable flick with some good laughs throughout. Unfortunately, those laughs were the highlights of the trailers. Everything else is mildly amusing set-ups to what you have already seen. Johnny Knoxville does a great job sustaining his Irving Zisman character throughout the entire film. Some of what he does is over the top, but from an acting stand point, he succeeds. The film belongs to little Jackson Nicoll. At nine years old, this kid is incredibly talented. He is definitely someone to look out for.
As for that Oscar nomination, don’t be surprised if Bad Grandpa takes it. The make-up effects on Knoxville are very impressive. In close-ups, blemishes in the skin and textures look amazingly real. I would think I was looking at an 80-something year old man if I saw him being pushed by a nine year old in a shopping cart.
Bad Grandpa is released with a 1080p, MPEG-4 transfer and an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. Because the film is recorded with various equipment, it’s hard to express the quality. During scenes with Irving and Billy, the picture is quiet nice, with good sharpness and natural skin tones. The problem is that most of the stunts are recorded on low level cameras, such as surveillance cameras. The image quality is significantly reduced-very soft picture, washed-out colors. Obviously, this isn’t reference material. If anything, the film is recorded like a documentary, and it’s presentation is consistent to that of a documentary released on Blu-ray.
The DTS-HD 5.1 audio transfer for the film is serviceable. Basically, it gets the job done. Most of the soundtrack is directed from the front channels. Dialogue is fairly clear from the center speaker, even when recording with lower end equipment. The side speakers support the majority of the audio transfer. There are no directional effects. The only use the back surrounds get is when songs play in the background during several scenes. That is the extent of the audio package. I wasn’t expecting an incredible audio experience from this film, and I was right.
The extras included on Bad Grandpa are pretty slim, but they do provide a very entertaining look at the making of the film.
• Behind the scenes: Goes into the detail of setting up many of the pranks done throughout the film, and the reactions of their victims.
• Alternate marks: Shows some of the pranks from the film, but with other victims.
• Deleted scenes: I really expected more than three deleted scenes, especially with all the footage that it took to get some of these pranks to work.
Bad Grandpa is probably the best of the Jackass films. Every one of the films in the series rely on the stunts and pranks performed, but here, the story drives the film, and the pranks add to the story. Johnny Knoxville is absolutely believable as an 87 Year old man, and little Lincoln Nicoll comes away as one of the best child actors I’ve ever seen. The film drags at times, but when it hits its stride, it is absolutely hilarious. Presentation-wise, it’s not very spectacular and the extras are disappointing. But all in all, Bad Grandpa is an enjoyable film. Getting an Oscar nomination may be strange for this kind of film, but don’t be surprised if you hear “Oscar Winner, Bad Grandpa.”