I consider myself more open minded than most critics when it comes to gutter humor. Always one to enjoy watching idiots get hurt, I had high hopes for Jackass: The Movie, a feature length version of the MTV show that highlights dangerous folly. The opening was promising enough, with Johnny Knoxville, Bam Margera, Steve-O, and the rest of the cast punching each other in the face as they careened down a hill in a giant shopping cart. But I quickly learned the disappointing reality that Jackass was not all mortal danger and laughs at the expense of others--some of it was just bogus and unfunny.
Each of the scenes fall into one of two categories: prank or stunt.
The pranks are the lamest moments, feeling utterly staged and artificial. These practical jokes present themselves as spontaneous hidden camera gags, but they seem like nothing more than planned shots with hired actors. In one scene, the Jackass crew rents a car, trashes it to hell, then tries to return it. Not only is this routine boring, but it smacks of phoniness: even if it were real, are we supposed to believe Knoxville and Company never let the victims in on the joke? Hell, the production studio probably paid for the car when all was said and done.
In another prank, one of the Jackasses strips down to a g-string and gets his dance on in the streets of Japan. He definitely makes a clown out of himself, but again, it feels too staged. The way the scene is shot implies the camera is in full view and the victims know they are being filmed. Seeing the guys consistently use clunky 1950s-looking equipment elsewhere doesn't help the hidden camera argument.
But then there are the stunts. These are the best parts of Jackass, hilarious because they feature severe lapses of good judgement and morons getting hurt. It's as if someone crawled into the little brains of these dumbasses and shut down their basic survival instincts. Two examples of this lack of self-preservation include Steve-O getting fed to the alligators and a subsequent swim with hungry sharks.
Stunts gone wrong, such as a dimwit falling out of a tree while trying to give himself a "bungee wedgie," are among the funnier scenes, as are the ones with painful consequences: Johnny Knoxville gets shot with a bean bag gun, then later gets clocked so hard by rotund boxer Butterbean that he has to get his fool head stitched up. An electric razor that sneaks up on unsuspecting chumps throughout the movie is also worth a few recurring laughs.
Some stunts are good at making audiences cringe, like the Jackasses using heavy manila envelopes to give themselves papercuts between their fingers and toes, and in the corners of their mouths. Others excel at the straightforward gross-out, like a freak pissing on a snowcone and eating the goddam thing (if that's not enough, his colleagues also kick him in the stones until he vomits). Still others are just odd: what can you say about getting a tattoo in an off-road Hummer while Henry Rollins yells vulgarities, or about a dumbf*** who sets off fireworks in his ass? And speaking of ass, would it be so hard to properly clothe these sick bastards? This flick has far too much male nudity for its own good.
No one should expect cinematic brilliance when going into something like Jackass: The Movie. Its sole purpose is to deliver big laughs powered by crass comedy, and it often succeeds. But the bits that don't work misfire badly, leaving stupidity without the entertainment value. And I think even the hardcore Jackass fans who know their sh*t have to agree with me on one thing: while offensive to stodgy old folks, most of the stuff in this movie doesn't compare to what some of the cast members have done in other videos.
Rating: 5 out of 10 (0=Abysmal, 5=Average, 10=Excellent)