'Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa' is a tasteless, disturbing farce.
"Bad Grandpa'' R -- Also billed as "Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa,'' this movie takes the "Jackass'' film and TV tradition -- performing ridiculously dangerous stunts and lewd practical jokes before unsuspecting bystanders -- to a new level. This time, a fictional story overlays that gimmick. It is not for under-17s, though many will see it. "Jackass'' stalwart Johnny Knoxville, in heavy age makeup, plays 86-year-old Irving Zisman, a spry widower eager to celebrate the recent demise of his cranky wife with a binge of boozing and womanizing. Unfortunately for Irv, his crack-addict daughter dumps her 8-year-old son Billy (Jackson Nicoll) on Irv because she must go to prison for a while. Irv is supposed to deliver little Billy to his dead-beat dad in North Carolina. Irv does this grudgingly, as having Billy around will cramp his style. Instead of adjusting his behavior, Irv includes the kid in his antics as they travel from Nebraska eastward. But what is disturbing about this latest film is not the gross, sexually explicit, glass-shattering stunts themselves. It is the way Knoxville and director Jeff Tremaine use their unwitting audiences. They pull off a majority of their gags in front of lower-income Americans, often people of color, often poor people who are obese, more or less playing them all for suckers, often making fun of their kindnesses. In out-takes at the end, we see the film crew let these folks in on the joke. Yet the film itself often makes them the joke.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Visual penis jokes occur with frequency, and even though it's obvious they're using props, the gags are gross, as when Grandpa Irv gets his organ stuck inside a vending machine after using the machine either to pleasure himself or as an improvised urinal -- it's not clear. Male strippers at a dance club use very explicit sexual moves on their female audience and are nearly naked. At various moments, Grandpa and Billy pull a massively gross toilet humor gag in a restaurant; knock grandma out of her coffin; drop her into a shallow river; crash through a glass storefront; and proposition many women. On his own, Billy asks strange men to adopt him; disguises himself as a little girl and competes in a little girls' beauty contest, where he executes a striptease/pole dance. That bit of spoofery is perhaps deserved because of the pageant subculture. The language is profane, but not horrific.
"Captain Phillips'' PG-13 -- Not graphically violent, but still too high-intensity for middle-schoolers, this re-enactment of a real 2009 incident will give high-schoolers more than thrills, though it surely has those. Director Paul Greengrass' wonderfully acted docudrama offers a sharp insight into Third World poverty. Tom Hanks, in another fine turn, plays Richard Phillips, captain of the U.S. container ship Maersk Alabama. Phillips' compassion, professionalism and courage face a daunting test when pirates board his ship off the coast of Somalia. Non-actors recruited from the Somali immigrant community around Minneapolis play the pirates (Barkhad Abdi, Barkhad Abdirahman, Faysal Ahmed and Mahat M. Ali), and they -- particularly Abdi -- are wholly believable, both frightening and tragic. Phillips offers them $30,000 from the ship's safe, but their leader (Abdi) demands millions in ransom.
THE BOTTOM LINE: For most of the film, the intensity comes from threats and a sense of potential violence. Prior to the climax, any mayhem involves guns fired in the air, punching and shouting. Someone badly hurts a foot on broken glass. The pirates nearly strangle Phillips as they tie him up in the lifeboat. At the end, there are lethal shootings and spattered blood. The script includes rare use of the S-word. The pirates chew a plant that subdues hunger and boosts confidence.
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|Publication:||Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)|
|Date:||Oct 25, 2013|
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