19th Nov2013

‘Bad Grandpa’ Review: A New Kind of Filmmaking?

by Catherina Gioino

Stars: Johnny Knoxville, Jackson Nicoll, Greg Harris, Georgina Cates, Kamber Hejlik, Jill Kill, Spike Jonze, Catherine Keener | Written by Jeff Tremaine, Johnny Knoxville | Directed by Jeff Tremaine


Everyone’s heard of the Jackass movies even if they haven’t seen them. Movies where people with an extremely high pain threshold put their minds and bodies to the test in various dares and pranks. These movies have been put to the test in the public’s eye as an interactive form of movie watching where the main characters (in what could almost be considered a documentary style) play pranks on the public and on each other and, so far, the films have been welcomed into society.

Bad Grandpa, the story of 85 year old Irving Zisman (Johnny Knoxville), a man whose wife just died, has been just as well received in the past few weeks as a new kind of Jackass movie…  Instead of there being pranks one after the other, this film has an actual storyline that the characters (Knoxville and 8 year old Jackson Nicoll) follow, all while maintaining their wiseass personalities and tricks.

The main storyline follows Zisman at the funeral of his wife where his daughter, who he hasn’t seen in a years, tells Irving that he must transport his grandson over from Nebraska to Ohio to the boy’s father as she was convicted of a crime and will be going to jail.  Crushed because of the fake happiness he received at the thought of happiness, Irving finds little ways to stay free while he is in watch of his grandson Billy, played by Nicoll.

Although he is well recognized and infamous for his pranks, Knoxville hides in plain sight the entire time in public. But the question that we beg to ask is whether it was really worth the effort to make the film. It has been reported that  makeup artist Stephen Prouty spent over three and a half hours every day going through makeup to make Knoxville seem as unrecognizable as possible. But is this the new form of movie? The audience soon forgets that the film is staged and we start to think and even worry for Billy’s well safety, although we subtly remind ourselves that the outrageous acts in the film are quite preposterous to happen in real life.

Even more shocking is the fact that Nicoll is an eight year old who endures these jokes, all with innuendoes going straight over his head. It was actually more entertaining to see his reactions to the jokes than the jokes themselves, and it was extremely amusing to see him on-up Knoxville whenever the opportunity arose for him to do so.

This film could plausibly lead to a whole new genre of movies. While the character was first thought up of over 10 years ago, the movie stands the test of time and works for all ages. But the question remains, could this possibly change the movie making process in the future? The entire film was shot without the participants knowledge of what was to happen, save for a few stunts and flashbacks. If the present success of the film has anything to predict for the future, could it possibly be that a movie would be made without the actors’ knowledge, giving us just their raw emotions? What could come out of this idea in the future?


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