Think Little Miss Sunshine could have used an elastic penis? Behold: Bad Grandpa, in which a widower and an eight-year-old drive across the country hitting on chicks, farting in diners, and getting granddad’s manhood stuck in a vending machine before sending the boy out in drag to perform a striptease at a kiddie beauty pageant.
The stars, Johnny Knoxville and Jackson Nicoll, are comedians; the extras are unsuspecting victims just going about their day in a park when the Jackass creator tootles up in convincing liver spots to land, then fellate, a four-foot fish. Like Borat, the joke is on the American need-to-please.
How long will these real-life bingo players, funeral singers, and male strippers tolerate Knoxville’s antics? Very long. No one even calls the cops when he and the kid perch on a picnic bench and chug a six-pack of beer. But the joke is really on Knoxville, who, despite flinging himself through a glass wall and rigging up a fake poo-sprayer in his pants, gets fewer laughs than his boy sidekick.
An unknown child actor, Nicoll has soulful eyes and an almost frightening deadpan composure. When he begs strangers to be his new dad, they’re legitimately unnerved (but they still abandon him on the street).
By Jackass standards, Bad Grandpa is benign—it’s neither as fun nor as thrilling as watching Knoxville play tetherball with a beehive. But Nicoll deserves as much applause as Sunshine’s Abigail Breslin. Put him in a remake of The Bicycle Thief and the kid could win an Oscar.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on October 23, 2013