I’m pretty sure I’ve just seen the runaway comedy film of the autumn. Or rather, the trailer for it, which was released just a few hours ago. Bad Grandpa features Johnny Knoxville as 86-year-old Irving Zisman, on a far from heart-warming road trip across America to reunite his eight-year-old grandson with his father. Suddenly scheduled for release on Oct 25, it was filmed in great secrecy over the summer, in order to keep the reaction of the public, Borat-style, authentic.
As you’d expect from the makers of Jackass, the comedy is broader than the Amazon river. Knoxville/Zisman collapses into a tower of champagne glasses at a wedding; knocks over the open casket at a funeral; and, in a glorious homage to Little Miss Sunshine, his grandson dons a dress and blonde wig to enter a child pageant, and ends his routine dancing round a stripper’s pole as his granddad peels off dollar bills. This at least shows that the humour will occasionally strike a valid satirical target, rather than just disturbing innocent bystanders whose shock, anger and bewilderment are recorded by multiple hidden cameras.
As a commercial idea, it’s genius: like all the most popular YouTube clips of people falling over and fighting and freaking out put together. As comedy it looks, expel me now from the Critics’ Circle (um, not that I ever joined), hilarious. As art… hmm. We’ll see.
I have teenaged sons; the watching of Jackass was mandatory for a while. The best sequences were not the crazy hurtful stunts, I always felt, but the ones where they would bewilder members of the public. The Bad Grandpa sketches, such as the one where he sits outside with his grandson (older than in the film), passing back and forth a cigarette and bottle of hooch and picking a fight with the local hard-nut, were hilarious.
I smell a hit. If this doesn’t take $100 million I will, like Werner Herzog, eat my shoe.