At the beginning and end of "Jackass: The Movie," based on the now-canceled MTV reality series, there is a warning to audiences that the stunts they are about to see or have just seen should not be tried at home. If I had been the producer, I would have added a follow-up warning: "Prepare to watch the first film in history with the visceral power to inflict actual physical pain on audience members." In a way, the former, used warning is necessary, yet silly, because anyone who would willingly attempt the stunts in the film deserve to be sent to a hospital for psychiatric observation.
Directed by Jeff Tremaine, "Jackass: The Movie" makes a serious case for why a film critic's job is sometimes a tricky one. For one, the picture really is simply three uncensored episodes strung together, with no story to speak of and some of the most execrable footage sure to ever be found in an R-rated studio production. And two, there is occasional amusement to be found, mostly due to how far the cast will go in their pursuit of claiming victory over the title, but not as many overall laughs as they are likely hoping for. The movie isn't uproariously funny so much as it is an inconsequential curiosity of degradation and pure disgust. Too often, the viewer isn't reacting to humor so much as they are wincing back in repugnance.
For those unfamiliar with the controversial television show, "Jackass" is a series of unconnected skits in which the crazy-assed cast members (headed by Johnny Knoxville) perform a variety of painful stunts and play gags on unsuspecting innocents. That's it; things don't get much deeper than that.
"Jackass: The Movie" is akin to a bloody roadside auto accident that you want to turn away from, but can't. Some of the material is so out-there and so graphic that it once again puts into question the validity of those fools at the MPAA ratings board. While Rob Zombie's much-delayed, fictional "House of 1000 Corpses"which probably only has some fake blood and violencehad to be severely cut to garner an R, "Jackass" is a reality film that has been unleashed seemingly without problem from the ratings board. Want to graphically see a man urinate on his snow-cone, eat it, and then throw it up? Want to see someone stuff a toy car up his rectum? How about a man defecating in his underwear and then attempting to clean himself up, the sight of which causes the cameraman to barf all over the street? It can be assured that the sight of the cast getting intentional papercuts between their fingers and toes, and on their tongues and eyelids, is the most squirm-inducing moment in any movie this year.
"Jackass: The Movie" is an amalgamation of three kinds of scenes: the genuinely funny, the sick and twisted, and the lame. Not coincidentally, the sequences that did garner laughs were those that could have easily been shown on television, such as a series of gags where the cast pose as old men on the streets of Japan, or a trip to a golf course where they hide in the bushes and continuously blow a horn every time one of the players swings their club. When the perverse, stomach-churning material was stripped away, you could concentrate on the silliness of the situations, rather than their sickness. Also making an unwelcome appearance are skits that are absolute failures, such as a trick charismatic performer Johnny Knoxville (2002's "Big Trouble
") plays on a car rental dealership.
There will be those (mostly die-hard fans of the show) who will watch "Jackass: The Movie" from beginning to end and laugh almost non-stop. That is all well and good, and to be expected. The problem is that Tom Green had an almost identical series on Comedy Central around the same time period as "Jackass," but was immeasurably funnier and more witty. When Green played cruel tricks on his parents, their reactions seemed authentic, and all the more hilarious because of it. Throughout this film, Bam Margera does the same thing to his parents, but their reactions seem pre-planned and poorly acted. Whereas Tom Green revealed himself to be some sort of crazed genius, the cast of "Jackass" are just idiots. Go see "Jackass: The Movie" and you will not be able to turn away. Once it is over, mourn for what today's general public has resorted to calling entertainment. If these 80 minutes don't signal the coming of the apocalypse, nothing ever will.
©2002 by Dustin Putman