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.
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 tips the casket over in front of everybody.
Running gag: black people's nervousness around a corpse. Another running gag: Irving's racially tinged wisecracks to Hispanic store clerks, black cashiers, strip-club fans, and a fetching Asian woman his 8-year-old "grandson" (Jackson Nicoll) befriends somewhere around Nashville.
The crackhead daughter dumped the kid on Grandpa. After a very public Internet cafe Skype rant with the kid's no-good pothead dad (with bong hits) to rattle the patrons, we're off on a bad grandparenting trek from Nebraska to North Carolina, with flatulence gags, sagging body parts, poor driving, and a demonstration of extreme shoplifting.
There are explosive laughs - Grandpa sucker-punched by an airbag and hurled through a store window by a cheap kids' ride set up out front. Most you've seen in the very funny TV ads. And the kid (Nicoll was in Fun Size) is hilarious, a natural Jackass in training. But the scripted interludes aren't funny at all - embarrassing more than anything else. Lose the danger - will the irate store owner go off on Knoxville? - and Bad Grandpa loses some of its Borat frisson. Limit the stunts to a few rubberized genital gags, and you lose a lot of Jackass shock appeal.
Still, a male stripper revue goes terribly wrong, and a couple of tumbles involving transporting Granny's corpse (portrayed by Spike Jonze?) raise a funny eyebrow. And there's a big finish.
Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa (** out of four stars)
Directed by Jeff Tremaine. With Johnny Knoxville, Jackson Nicoll, Georgina Cates. Distributed by Paramount.
Running time: 1 hour, 32 mins.
Parent's guide: R (strong crude and sexual content throughout, language, graphic nudity, drug use)
Playing at: area theaters