Entering theaters 11 years to the day after the first Jackass
release deliriously exceeded all expectations, Bad Grandpa
has become the franchise's fourth consecutive film to debut with top grosses, and nobody seems the least surprised that an ambling road movie with few stunts and relatively unknown leads bested Brad Pitt and George Clooney. As this narrative begins, Johnny Knoxville’s newly widowed, 86-year-old Irving Zisman is driving his grandson across the country to be dropped with his deadbeat dad. The farther they travel across America, the further Knoxville and talented child actor Jackson Nicoll press their man-on-the-street badinage toward creepiness. Nicoll's unilateral decision to be adopted by friendly strangers probably wrings the most laughs, but Knoxville's addled ferocity attains more intriguing dimensions. Turns out you can teach a certain sort of dog new tricks, and Knoxville's persistence proves weirdly humanizing. Throughout his travels, save for a bravura standoff with one loudmouth braggart, he accepts defeat in a bittersweet manner. Older but no wiser, and still obsessed with seizing the easy laugh with lunatic aplomb, Bad Grandpa
isn’t quite art, and it's not quite growing old gracefully. This, though, you may want to try at home.