“I’m Johnny Knoxville, welcome to Jackass”
The phrase “cinema is finally back” or “the power of cinema is needed now and is more palpable than ever” has been used a lot during the pandemic but I truly believe that statement has never been more true than with this film.
I first watched Jackass in highschool computer class when me and some friends were supposed to be doing work and instead opted to delve down the more tempting allure of youtube’s content rabbit hole. One of them suggested putting on Jackass and the rest is history. I think it’s a fair statement to say that Jackass has been one of the most formative pieces of media for the past generation raised on monster energy fuelled mtv marathons and YouTube stunt compilations for better or worse.
Seeing Johnny Knoxville getting hit by a bull at his age while the other guys title him the ‘captain’ from the sidelines as he’s taken away on a stretcher in full neck brace evokes something far more sentimental and nostalgic than any other forced Hollywood attempt at capitalising on cheap referential pandering. It’s a unique experience to be able to see a film like this in theatres when viewing it as a tasteless comical spectacle but it hits even harder because it’s jackass. It’s the thing we grew up with in school when we weren’t supposed to, on slow to load family computers and word of mouth. The prevailing word being ‘gnarly’. Seeing the boys back on the big screen brought on a tender emotional response I wasn’t expecting from the same film series with the iconic line “you better shit piss” but here we are 20 years later “still doing the same stupid shit” cementing jackass as enduring treasure of comedy and culture rather than the dated relic of cultural shift so much of the early 2000s has stagnated into.
From the outset of a critical evaluation this seems like an impossible film to review, after all there are only so many ways I can attempt to tackle jackass’s thrill ride of unbridled stupidity in a rational fashion and only so few ways to write about bruised genitalia while maintaining sophistication and order. However after 2 watches back to back over this weekend I find myself musing over that thrill ride and for whatever reason I’m sitting here; binge watching the original trilogy on my couch writing about it and foolishly trying to keep order and reason while typing about those afflicted ‘ding dongs’ like an idiot.
Boys will be boys
No one does it like the jackass boys try as they might. The culture of homemade stunt videos found on YouTube and early 2000s internet is a wild ‘gnarly’ subset of radical culture with no shortage of amateurs throwing their hat into the rodeo with charming homemade tapes of stunts (a charming touch of intimacy which found its way into the original jackass film in its simple, yet intoxicating vhs grain corroded aesthetic). However the crew behind mtv’s hit not only set the bar, they looked at that bar and found the funniest, ridiculous and plain entertaining way to embarrass or mutilate themselves with it. The degree that life is treated haphazardly is astoundingly entertaining, a true and true formula for reactions that still works wonders to this day. With the last decades worth of experience and a sizable budget the jackass stunts and pranks have developed and improved vastly culminating in a plethora of series highs, merging impressive spectacle.
If something can go wrong it will go wrong is the mantra the group lives by. They gravitate objects of pain to them like misfortune blackholes. Volley balls, dangling frying pans or particularly in the case of Danger Ehren McGhehey the films MVP heavyweight fighters fists, softballs, hockey pucks and the dreaded pogo stick. All according to plan or going horribly awry, different equations for similar conclusions. Start to finish the film is hilarious, never relenting on the gas and always pushing the viewer into submissive side splitting and wildly rewarding laughter. Even when the stunt or prank falls apart you can always rely on the guys to deliver the perfect one liner, follow up or perfectly timed gag. The reason all these films work as well as they do is because of the perfect cast of suicidal daredevils behind the broken bones and explicitgross out showcase that we can’t help but love.
After 20 years doing what they did, the group has truly mastered the art of ‘guys being dudes’. Aside from the vicarious exaggerated peril seen in the death defying stunts is the mutual friendship they all have for each other. You could say the true purpose of jackass is the friends we made along the way.
Is this the end of jackass? Most likely yes. The stunts for the original crew were noticeably reeled in and sidelined compared to their early shenanigans (not to discredit the insanity pulled off in this film). Despite Knoxville stating in interviews that the full stop’s ink hasn’t fully dried up, It might finally be time for the gang to hang up the cheekless underwear and crutches to retire. The anaesthesia and life support might hold out a little longer for the ending of jackass 1’s ‘son of jackass’ to come full circle into fruition however as it stands forever is a monumental swan song for the crew and an all time series high to say goodbye to long time fans with.
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