Strip the danger out of “Borat” and the injuries out of “Jackass” and you’ve got a bead on “Bad Grandpa,” a fitfully funny, semi-scripted “Jackass” outing built around elaborately staged pranks played on the unsuspecting.
Johnny Knoxville dons old-age makeup and becomes Irving Zisman, whom we meet at his wife’s doctor’s office.
“I thought she’d NEVER die.”
Innocent bystanders give him a look.
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At the funeral, a hired black church choir freaks out — a bit — at Irving’s tasteless eulogy and the mayhem, with his crackhead daughter (Georgina Cates), that results in the casket falling over in front of everybody.
A running gag in the movie: black people’s nervousness around a corpse. Another running gag: Irving’s racially tinged wisecracks to Hispanic store clerks, black cashiers and strip-club fans and a fetching Asian woman his 8-year-old “grandson” (Jackson Nicoll) befriends somewhere around Nashville.
The crackhead daughter has dumped the kid on grandpa. After a very public Skype Internet-cafe rant with the kid’s no-good pothead dad (complete with bong hits) to rattle the patrons, we’re off on a bad grandparenting trek from Nebraska to North Carolina, complete with flatulence gags, sagging body parts, bad driving and a demonstration of extreme shoplifting.
There are explosive laughs in the stunts — grandpa sucker-punched by an air bag; hurled through a store window by a cheap kids’ ride set up out front. And the kid (Nicoll was in “Fun Size”) is flat-out hilarious, a natural “Jackass” in training.
But the scripted interludes aren’t funny at all and the gags are more embarrassing than anything else.
A couple of tumbles involving transporting Granny’s corpse (portrayed by … Spike Jonze?) raise a funny eyebrow. And there’s a big finish.
As “Jackass” jokes go, though, “Bad Grandpa” was better in concept and in its short, punchy TV commercials than it is as a feature.