Jackass Forever Directed by Jeff Tremaine. Starring Johnny Knoxville and His Dumb Buddies. Plugs: None. Nearest: Cottonwood Mall.
Director Jeff Tremaine and Johnny Knoxville return for a fourth, and allegedly last, installment of the popular Jackass series in which Knoxville and his not-too-bright buddies engage in mild public property destruction and somewhat more serious personal bodily destruction.
Jackass relishes in shock, stupidity and plenty of shots to mens’ privates; this film features mixed martial arts UFC title holder Francis Ngannou punching one of the fellows in the testicles. Comedian Eric Andre, one of several B-list celebrities who appear in cameos, notes dryly at one point that “This is not a Mensa conference.”
If stupid stunts are your thing, ranging from human cannonballs to stun gun stunts to a fat guy jumping into a cactus patch, this is your bag. Jackass Forever also makes use of a variety of vermin including snakes, scorpions, spiders and bees, used to menace the performers.
There’s lots of gross-out humor involving bodily fluids and substances (human and otherwise), and the film is definitely not for the squeamish. Not all of the segments in Jackass are dangerous stunts; some of them are simply Candid Camera-type pranks, with hidden cameras capturing bystanders’ reactions to crazy situations.
Amid all the outrageous, and occasionally disgusting, shenanigans, it’s easy to overlook the ingenious engineering skills brought to the film. While the segments and clips may only take 20 seconds or a minute to watch, actually designing and testing the stunts to make them dangerous but not lethal involves a lot of work and preparation. A scene where farts are lit on fire is captured through a semi-scientific contraption that would not be out of place on Mythbusters, while some of the stunts were presaged by reality shows such as Fear Factor.
One interesting aspect of the series is the use of meta-narrative. In addition to the stunts, which are pretty straightforward, there are also pranks —some of which are quite elaborate— played on both unsuspecting marks and cast members each other on the set, so it’s never really clear, at least until the end of the sketch, what’s real and what’s not. The mixing of fact and fiction, genuine and ersatz threats, keeps the action interesting through the hit-and-miss series of sketches and stunts.
Jackass began as a television series in 2000, and soon became a successful film franchise. By now the series has the feel of old friends —in both senses of the word— reuniting to see if they can still pull off the stunts from their salad days.
Most of the crew are back, including Steve-O and Chris Pontius (with the exception of Ryan Dunn, who died in a drunk-driving car crash in 2011). Jackass is an equal-opportunity offender and makes use of a variety of (mostly male) morphologies, from dwarf Wee Man to morbidly obese Preston Lacy. In an attempt to bring in some new blood, as it were, the crew have gotten a bit more diverse, with female Jackass participant Rachel Wolfson and a few African-American buddies as well.
Knoxville has stated that he plans no more entries, though the call of cash may prove otherwise. For those curious about the skater stunt origins of the Jackass series, check out the documentary Dumb: The Story of Big Brother Magazine, available on Hulu. I make no apologies for laughing out loud multiple times, punctuated by some groans and more than a few winces; Jackass Forever may be low-brow and not everyone’s cup of pig semen, but the film has an undeniable escapist appeal.