Ever since making the leap from the airwaves of MTV to movie theater marquees, Jackass has been this gleefully chaotic assault of low brow humor, a madcap mixture of outrageous pranks, deranged stunts, and gruesome body horror. It’s understandable that anyone watching 90-odd minutes of Jackass might be muttering to themselves, “This is the dumbest shit ever,” but that is entirely the point. A high-speed projectile nailing some dude in the dick is always funny. And this commitment to the bit that has last for more than two decades and is how Jackass has been able to fully transcend its lowbrow origins and find itself a nearly universal acclaimed film franchise that has crossed over into the highbrow. More than ten years since their last film, the Jackass crew (mostly) reunites for Jackass Forever, the swan song for the series originators while also serving as a launching point for a whole new cast of young would-be daredevils. Jackass Forever is everything you’d want from a Jackass movie, delivering constantly outrageous gags that highlight the series’ wild creativity while also providing the basest laughs such as a hockey slapshot to the groin.
The latest compilation of jackassery helmed by Jeff Tremaine opens with a sketch where the crew of Jackass must take on a Godzilla-like beast running amok through a crowded city. The true nature of the beast won’t be revealed here but it’s true to that classic Jackass form, and quickly escalates into that mixture of the shockingly disgusting and simply juvenile sense of humor. From there, the various stunts and pranks unfold at a breakneck pace, with Johnny Knoxville, Steve-O, Chris Pontius, Preston Lacy, Jason “Wee-Man” Acuña, Ehren McGhehey, and Dave England all placing life and limb on the line for our entertainment.
Because of decades of dangerous stunts combined with the injuries resulted and the ravages of time, the original Jackass crew doesn’t always go as hard as they used to. None of which is to say that any of these men are taking it easy. Oh no, they all get their fair share of injuries and disgusting humiliations. After all, these men have encounters with wild bulls, vultures, and even a full beehive. There are multiple moments of bloodied bodies and even a couple of scenes where performers are hauled away in ambulances wearing neck braces. Some people don’t get wiser with age.
The legacy members of Jackass are able to equitably distribute the pain and humiliation to a new roster of Jackasses, Rachel Wolfson, Zach Holmes, Eric Manaka, Jasper (Davon Wilson), and Poopies (Sean McInerney). At first, you can feel their excitement in joining the Jackass crew but soon their joy turns to dread as they’re confronted with crazier and crazier stunts. It doesn’t take long for the audience to quickly warm to these new crew members. It helps that the rapport between the two generations of Jackass is practically seamless.
Like its predecessors, Jackass Forever features no shortage of bodies flailing in mid-air, and the expanded budget for the fourth film gives director Jeff Tremaine access to plenty of high frame rate cameras to present the action in painful slow motion. There’s also no shortage of in-depth glimpses into the anatomy of its cast. In its own odd way, Jackass Forever shows both the malleability and durability of male genitalia.
One area the Jackass films don’t get enough credit is the way in which they’re able to ratchet up suspense. So often these setups are a prank within a prank, and Knoxville and Tremaine are masterful in letting us into the gag before it escalates. It creates a level of suspense and tension worthy of Hitchcock. You know something horrible is right around the corner, but unlike the typical horror film where you’re yelling for the character not to open the door, Jackass gets you on the edge of your seat, hands near your eyes, as you gleefully await whatever horrors lie on the other side of the door.
Is Jackass Forever the end of Jackass? Perhaps. If it is, the cast and crew of Jackass can raise their hands triumphantly knowing that they’re undefeated on the silver screen. At the same time, Jackass Forever lays a foundation for a new generation of Jackass that take on the mantle of aggressively self-destructive stupidity. After all, Jackass always has a natural showman to front the mayhem in Johnny Knoxville, even if he isn’t hurling his body into the fray. Regardless of what the future holds, Jackass Forever delivers the good in another blend of brilliance and stupidity, hilarity and horror. If you’re gonna be dumb, you gotta be tough. These are some dumb, tough so-and-sos and we’re all better off for it.
- Overall Score
Another dizzying ride with America’s favorite kamikaze stuntmen, Jackass Forever blends old and new in a new hilariously grotesque compilation of pure brilliance and pure idiocy in what will be among the year’s funniest films.