Published Jan 28, 2014It's not often that the supplemental material included on a Blu-Ray release can greatly enhance the enjoyment of a film, but Bad Grandpa is a rare breed of comedy that lends itself to the phenomenon. While the theatrical release was a raunchy series of Jackass-style gags held together by a serviceable narrative, it now comes with all of the behind-the-scenes mayhem that typically makes up half of the fun of the brand's efforts.
Returning from his appearances in previous Jackass bits, ornery octogenarian Irving Zisman (Johnny Knoxville under a ton of Oscar-nominated make-up) has the death of his wife compounded by the burden of caring for his 8-year old grandson, Billy (Jackson Nicoll) when he learns that his daughter is headed back to prison. Eventually deciding to drive the kid to his deadbeat dad in North Carolina, Irving and Billy set off on a road trip through America's heartland that's filled with plenty of wacky antics and general tomfoolery.
Some of the best bits along the way reach heights previously only reserved in this highly specific genre for the work of Sacha Baron Cohen in Borat and Bruno. Knoxville and his co-writers Jeff Tremaine and Spike Jonze display undeniable artistry in creating scenarios for Irving and Billy to interact with unsuspecting participants. A trip to a male strip club where Irving ends up as the entertainment and a climactic beauty pageant in which Billy competes make for some of the funniest scenes of last year.
The bond that develops between Irving and Billy is perhaps only perfunctory, but the refreshingly unaffected presence of Nicoll and his chemistry with Knoxville help ground the craziness with some heart while never becoming too saccharine. The way they poke and prod those who unwittingly stumble into their path also reveals the complexities of human nature in a manner that's frequently surprising and always fascinating.
For all of the questions surrounding how these outrageous scenes were arranged ahead of time, the aforementioned supplemental material provides plenty of answers. Now we get to see the guilt of the crew as they enlist strangers to sit in on what they believe is a real funeral and how horrified people react when they are finally told it's only been part of a film. The meticulous preparation and rehearsal that went into launching Knoxville through a window is impressive and a deleted scene where he manages, as an 86-year old man, to get a phone number from an attractive young woman who professes to have a boyfriend is flat-out astounding.
If the movie itself was good, there's enough hilarious and illuminating extra footage here to vault it now to greatness.