The two best movies of 2013 were both written by Spike Jonze. You’ve all heard about Her. It’s gorgeous and brilliant and moving. Everyone’s talking about it and all for good reasons. But nobody’s talking about Bad Grandpa.
Bad Grandpa is old white Borat running around with a little kid freaking people out. But amazingly the film has a story. Not just a story. Themes!? Not just that either, perhaps it simply caught me on just the right day, but this movie filled me with empathy and excitement about life, America, and the power of cinema. Like Her, it has Heart.
Bad Grandpa's greatest asset is that it was just supposed to be some stunts and pranks. That's what we all expected. Goofs and spoofs. So I went to the 4 dollar movie theater near my house with some friends and a theater full of latino families, teenagers, and some 5 and 6 year olds. Great crowd. I highly recommend watching this movie with your moms & dads, neighbors, coworkers, the childhood friends you struggle to reconnect with, ex girlfriends, brand new friends… You get it. Different kinds of folks. Then just marvel at how you find common ground watching the film. We're all human. We all get our dicks stuck in the proverbial soda machine from time to time. And we all just want to find love. I'm not joking. The central theme of Her and Bad Grandpa is the same.
Through a series of expertly orchestrated scenes with real people, Bad Grandpa explores generational angst, race relations, the battle of the sexes, and stereotypes in general. No really. And not in a preachy way. The film is like a cultural petri dish. In a series of experiments, we get to see how people really treat each other when an old white man shows up in an all black male strip club and lets it all hang out, or a little boy dresses in drag at a beauty pageant. And the results of these experiments will surprise you. When you’re dick’s stuck in the soda machine, some folks will ignore you, others laugh and film with their phones, some folks run, and some folks are brave enough to walk over and try to help you out. How beautiful is that?!
By the end of the film, you’re overwhelmed with empathy. Borat shined a light on prejudice and simple mindedness in America. Conversely, 7 years later, Bad Grandpa shows us that perhaps people aren’t as stupid and mean as we thought. Amazingly the biggest laughs coincide with real emotion. When a boy says 'I love you' to a complete stranger, or later when a stranger furiously whispers to an actor portraying a bad dad, 'that boy is worth more than money. He's worth more than money.'
It’s why people should make movies. Let’s challenge our preconceptions about other cultures, about raising children, about people with different beliefs than our own. Let’s test the limits of our social construct called America. And most of all, let’s have fun off camera, on camera, AND in the theatre. Also, some of the goofs and spoofs are like super funny.