Bad Grandpa is an offshoot of the Jackass franchise, so naturally it's a little bit different from your average movie where an old man takes his grandson on a cross country road trip. Before the movie is over we will have seen: a trip to a male strip club that almost turns into a fist fight; a man get his rubbery penis stuck in the coin return slot of a vending machine; explosive diarrhea in a restaurant; and in the film's piece de resistance, we watch as a child's beauty pageant goes terribly, terribly wrong. It's a lot of raunchy insanity crammed into a relatively short run time.
Although there are a few pre-scripted scenes that are used to shape the skits into a coherent narrative, most of the movie is made up of pranks played on people on the street. Those sorts of movies always raise a lot of ethical questions for me, because I don't really like the idea of turning strangers into fools. However, my main ethical question about Bad Grandpa isn't about the bit players. It's about Jackson Nicoll, the little kid who plays the grandson in the movie.
How is that guy going to feel about this movie in twenty years?
Here's my concern: this movie is going to follow this kid for the rest of his life. If that sounds absurd, consider this: once my friend invited me to karaoke, and at one point she pointed to a friend of a friend and whispered "that guy was the baby in Labyrinth." That blew my mind. I was in the same room as someone who had been tossed in the air by a mulleted David Bowie! That guy didn't do anything impressive in the movie - he was basically a fifteen pound prop who was sharing the stage with actual actors - but still, it made my day because I love that movie. If that guy can't shake the fact that he was the baby from Labyrinth even though he doesn't look anything like a baby anymore, then being the kid in Bad Grandpa is definitely going to follow Jackson Nicoll around. He's old in the movie that he'll be recognizable as an adult, and the Jackass films have a dedicated enough following that this is not going to go away.
It may not matter to him. Judging from the outtakes that play over the credits Nicoll obviously had fun making the movie, and the film itself is pretty funny. (Well, it's funny if you like raunchy things. Your average pastor isn't going to get the joke.) And he shouldn't be ashamed of his work, either. Nicoll has a deadpan way of asking ridiculous questions that provokes the best possible reactions in their man-on-the-street segments, and he always looks genuinely surprised when something goes "wrong" in the exact way the producers planned it. If he grows up and is still a prankster then being in Bad Grandpa will probably be the coolest thing he ever did.
But if he outgrows that style of juvenile humor... well, what then? After all, the Jackass movies aren't just any comedies - they're pretty far out there, full of morbid scenes set at funerals and lots of super filthy sex talk. If young Mister Nicoll grows up and ever has to explain what he was doing in that movie where the old guy gets his dick stuck in the change return slot of a vending machine - well, it might be a long unpleasant explanation.
Of course, we can't judge the movie now based on how it might look in twenty years. Judging it strictly in the present tense, I think it's consistently funny, and very well edited. But I'm the sort of guy who gets fixated on weird things, and I do think it's going to be super weird to grow up knowing that you were the kid in Bad Grandpa. I can't help but wonder if in twenty years Jackson Nicoll is going to finish karaokeing a song and as he sits down someone will lean over to their friend and say "that's the guy who acted surprised when the Bad Grandpa shot explosive diarrhea out of his butt onto the wall of a restaurant." Because if that does end up happening - well, that's either going to be the best thing in the world or the worst, without much in between.