Whatcha lookin’ at Jackass?

BY JOHN BRISTOW

I am not ashamed. I saw Jackass: The Movie… and I loved it. But, unless you know what you are in for, you may want to think twice about this vehicle for Johnny Knoxville and his brotherhood of misfits to take their shenanigans, stunts and stupidity to the silver screen. Aptly named, this conglomeration of wacky on-location pieces features the stars of the controversial (and recently defunct) MTV show putting themselves at risk of losing life, limb and their lunches. Jackass pulls no punches… literally.

Jackass is not for the squeamish nor the easily-offended. The movie is full of self-induced violence, bathroom humor and unnecessary nudity — lowbrow comedy at its absolute lowest. That being said, if you can handle the sight of grown men giving themselves paper cuts between their toes, attempting a “bungee-wedgie” and snorting lines of wasabi, you just might make it to the credits.

Jackass has no plot, nor does it need one. Fans of the television show will be glad to learn that Knoxville & Co. did not try to work their antics into a script that has them battling an evil genius or trying to save Christmas. Instead, they merely use the 90-minute format to show all of the things that couldn’t get past the TV censors. The stunts in Jackass are generally clever, despite their occasional repulsiveness. Certain segments are devised as practical jokes while others seem more like a game of “Truth or Dare” gone terribly, terribly wrong.

Some of the highlights include Stephen Glover (aka Steve-O) walking a tightrope over a pit of alligators, Chris Pontius as “Party Boy” doing an unexpected striptease in a Tokyo electronics store, and Spike Jonze (creator of Jackass and Being John Malkovich) dressed as an old man who barrels into a crowded intersection on a motorized cart screaming “my brakes are broken!” But perhaps the defining moment of the movie is when Johnny Knoxville voluntarily gets shot in the stomach at close range with a small sack of plastic balls normally used by police in a riot. The anguish on Knoxville’s face as he paces around the lobby of the shooting range in anticipation of the stunt is a telling sign of the mentality behind the show and the movie. He is obviously afraid of the imminent harm. But what’s more, he also knows that he has no choice but to submit to the pain so that he can have bragging rights over the rest of his crew. In the world of the Jackasses, scars and bruises become the signs of victory and success is judged by the number of broken bones.

Ordinarily, this seems like the kind of movie that would appeal only to those who own the entire Best of Backyard Wrestling and Faces of Death collections. But, Jackass: The Movie approaches each “stunt” with the self-effacing acknowledgement that what is about to happen is moronic, immature, dangerous and embarrassingly appealing. Jackass puts together 90 minutes worth of moments that appeal to the 13-year-old boy that lives inside all of us. This movie is for all those times you have been completely grossed out or embarrassed by your friends, and yet, while covering your eyes, think “this is the funniest thing I have ever seen.”

However, this is by no means a date movie… unless you are hoping that your date will barf in your lap by the end of the evening. There are certain “stunts” which many viewers will find extremely hard to stomach, most including some sort of bodily expulsion. But, despite their crudeness, these stunts are like a train wreck or an ugly baby; you don’t want to see it, but you can’t stop staring.

This is why the Jackass franchise is so popular. It embarrasses viewers for enjoying themselves and then laughs right along with them. You have to accept Jackass: The Movie for what it is. It’s not a film, but merely a bunch of morons doing dumb stuff. If this premise alone appeals to you, Jackass may just be the funniest film this year. If not, consider this a warning.

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