Anyone even vaguely familiar with the television series – because after all the movies are only extended episodes of the show – shouldn’t be too surprised by the series of practical jokes, public pranks, and most of all the masochistic stunts carried out by the manboys of Jackass. Everyone I’m sure has already established opinions about it, but to those would-be detractors I would recommend to loosen up. Thankfully, the humor hasn’t yet gone stale, although the film will function at its most effective when put on in the background at a party and not at home by yourself on a Saturday night. It also helps that no one else of note makes anything quite like it. Not in the movies, anyway.
Johnny Knoxville, the pack’s alpha male, sums it all up halfway through the film when he instructs a colleague, who’s about to intentionally get his testicles stuck to an equine ice sculpture, “don’t think about it, just do it.” This is refreshingly senseless comedy stripped of all its formal pretensions: there’s no narrative context, very few punchlines, and no one is even trying to keep a straight face – consequently, their good time is infectious. It’s pure, distilled comedy, and while fine wine will always be superior to moonshine, sometimes you just want to get fucked-up.
New to this installment is the parade of celebrity cameos, from professional athletes like Tony Hawk to Hollywood directors like John Waters. Also new, if memory serves me correctly, is a spirit of one-upmanship; it’s no longer enough for someone to put a leech on their testicle, Steve-O has to put one in his eye.
You’ll notice from all the testicle references that the profuse homoeroticism is back, as well as their sadistic treatment of one another. Also back is the pervasive subtext that Jackass’ masochism is rooted in resentment towards their parents, as they constantly taunt, bait, and horrify Bam Margera’s mother.
The guys repeatedly allow themselves to be attacked by animals, usually bulls, as well as treating themselves like animals, such as when Mr. Margera has his posterior branded, or when Steve-O puts a fishhook attached to fishing wire through his cheek and leaps into shark-infested waters – fishing for sharks with human bait. They also beat themselves and each other using various modern artifacts – shopping carts, bicycles, medicine balls, fire hoses, etc. If Jackass should be read any way, it should be as a loving testament to the resilience of the human body, albeit by a hanful of assholes.