Come back Bam, Steve-O and Wee Man. All is forgiven.
In trying to re-invent itself with Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa, the Jackass franchise of "extreme" punking has brushed off its regulars and become Borat.
That is to say, it sets up a plot, and carries it out, all the while dragging real, live, bystanders along in a series of outrageously uncomfortable plot-related events.
In doing so, it becomes a sometimes-funny-but-mostly-not mash-up of Borat, Weekend At Bernie's (a corpse along for the ride) and Bad Santa (an offensive old guy along with a kid).
But Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa resembles nothing so much as one of those Saturday Night Live movies based on a single, flimsy sketch character.
In this case, the character is the presumably-dementia-ridden old man that Jackass's Johnny Knoxville has played for years. The conceit is that the store clerk, or whoever else encounters him, is not sure how to handle it when a befuddled octogenarian begins eating food, for example, right out of the package at the store. (There was also an undercurrent that the punk-ee perhaps deserved the punking, for not recognizing bad latex "aging" makeup.)
But Knoxville has obviously been so in love with this guy -- whose name turns out to be Irving Zisman -- that he gave him a whole movie (one that made me realize Irving looks a bit and sounds a lot like Stan Lee).
Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa opens with Irving being told at the doctor's office (in front of concerned and then horrified actual patients) that his wife has died. His reaction: jubilation!
There follows a disastrous funeral (in front of an actual, horrified church choir), and then a family crisis. Irving's daughter (Georgina Cates) is going to jail on crack charges, meaning Irving has to deliver little Billy (an actually likable Jackson Nicoll) to his lazy, druggie, biological dad in Raleigh, N.C.
Yes, it's a road movie, one where grandpa finds many an occasion to whip out his aged member, put the make on young women with lines like, "I can't stir the gumbo anymore, but I can still lick the spoon," drink marker fluid at Bingo games and drive over stuff.
Billy, meanwhile, spends his time insisting that complete strangers become his new dad. The real-people reactions rarely go beyond amusement or confusion (and it's hard not to suspect some of those are set up). Whereas Borat had elements of real danger, there's but one moment here where cops are called, and nobody's about to punch an 86-year-old man.
There is stuff to appease die-hard Jackass fans, including explosive diarrhea and one plate-glass-breaking stunt that made me miss the bone-breaking risks of the old Jackass.
But there's also a story with a Hollywood heart-warming resolution - a particularly bad fit, given the full-out senseless anarchy Jackass once represented.