I’ve always had a soft spot for these guys. Which is why one makes sure to wear a cup whenever reviewing a new “Jackass” movie. One must.
“Jackass Forever” is a valedictory victory lap for the scruffy little troupe of “stunt” dudes who risk almost certain injury — and certain humiliation — for laughs, lowbrow fame and cold-hard-cash.
They’ve been this for over 20 years. They’re all getting on up there, and as Indy Jones reminded us, “It’s not the years, honey. It’s the mileage.”
The movie they came up with is sentimental. And of course, kind of gross.
Intrepid prankster Johnny Knoxille jokes about “don’t show my bald spot (prompting a quick spray from producer Spike Jonze), and even shows off the snow white locks of his Appalachian elders in a few scenes. Everybody else let’s us see their missing teeth, past pain added to their fresh collection of bruises, bites, and scrotal overexposure that every new “Jackass” film promises.
They’ve finally diversified the cast, essentially setting up a new generation of Jackasses including Erik Manaka, comic Rachel Wolfson, walking co-morbidity Zach Holmes and Sean “Poopies” McInerney, whose nickname makes telling us that he “grew up watching ‘Jackass'” totally redundant.
One and all return for a few new epic stunts more or less under-designed to go wrong, and a nostalgic recycling of some of their most infamous pranks — the exploding outhouse among them.
A new bit favorite might be “The Quiet Game,” which involves pranking guys into waiting in a pitch-dark room that they assume has a loose rattlesnake in it, and Knoxville & Co. poking, cattle-prodding and abusing the hell out of them with the added terror of them never knowing what’s coming.
There are gags involving bees on a naked Steve-O, a honey-and-salmon-covered Jackass and a bear, a Wee Man baited for a vulture, snakes, a scorpion and of course a bull, although not the same one who’s given AARP-eligible Knoxville a violent toss in essentially the same gag, over many Jackasses over many years.
It’s no wonder PETA called for a criminal investigation of the picture and the animal handling practices of Team Jackass. I wonder, did PETA see this crew’s much more alarmingly animal-packed “Action Point?” That one that gave me pause.
Let’s hope for the best and assume “no animals were harmed,” because the same can’t be said for the principals. We’re here for the harm — theirs. And they don’t disappoint.
A snake or a scorpion bite to the face, bee stings all over Steve-O and little steve-o, “The Cup Test” involving a man-mountain from MMA (Francis Ngannou) delivering a knockout punch to the crotch, with many other variations of the crotch shot to follow, this crew brings the pain and suffers for their art.
The Spider Helmet gag has two men (Dark Star, the father of one of the new players, is one) in bubble helmets trying to keep a giant spider from traveling down a transparent tube into THEIR helmet to deliver a bite.
Wee Man — “Look at those FANGS!”
Ehren McGhehey: “I don’t wanna see the fangs!”
Johnny Knoxville: “Make SURE Ehren sees the fangs!”
It’s not the most original of these films, thanks to the re-enacted gags. And watching a cameraman and others vomit isn’t the most nauseating stuff they serve up. These arrested adolescents love their bodily fluids/bodily functions gags, and I’d say there are about three bodily fluids, two bathroom accidents and a half a dozen scrotum exposures I could’ve done without.
These movies don’t fit into any one, neat film category, and are so intentionally scruffy, sloppy and DIY looking that endorsing one is generally out of the question. It’s junk, sado-masochistic and lowbrow in the extreme. A perverse part of me was delighted when director Jeff Tremaine got tased (Knoxville tases almost everybody) and I held out the hope that Knoxville would give concept co-originator and producer Spike Jonze a zap. Note for “Jackass Continues” — I’d pay to see THAT.
The bonhomie and breaking each other up can seem genuine, or forced, like members of a “morning zoo” radio ensemble making themselves laugh at the less-than-hilarious.
High art this isn’t. The human grotesques may not be “Felliniesque.” And yes, that bear looks forlorn.
But in a climate where everybody else pulls their movies and hopes things will get better for moviegoing in the future, the COVID-protocols-conscious Jackasses went out there and did their thing, and are serving up their movie at a time when movie theaters are hurting.
That’s kind of noble, adding a financial risk to all the physical risks they gladly, or reluctantly, or with the assistance of “liquid courage” off-camera, take on.
And there’s white-haired Old Man Knoxville, dressed like a Cretan cretin, flying out of a cannon in tribute to Icarus. If that’s not art, I’ll eat my hat. Or have a Jackass eat something even less palatable in my place.
Rating: R for strong crude material and dangerous stunts, graphic nudity and language throughout
Cast: Johnny Knoxville, Steve-O, Rachel Wolfson, Chris Pontius, Jason ‘Wee Man’ Acuña, Ehren McGhehey, Erik Manaka, Zach Holmes, Eric Andre, Tony Hawk, Dave England, Preston Lacy, Francis Ngannou and Machine Gun Kelly.
Credits: Directed by Jeff Tremaine. A Paramount release.
Running time: 1:36