Explaining why "jackass" is interesting or funny to someone who doesn't get it is a pretty lose-lose situation. Not only is the other party unlikely to be convinced, but they'll probably think you, someone who they previously considered to be a person of taste and wisdom, to be an immature idiot. To that I say: eat me. The groundbreaking TV show and subsequent movies are more than the sum of their crotch hits and vomit geysers, they're like a rock and roll science experiment that tests the limits of the human body with surprising inventiveness. In another dimension, "jackass" would've been a co-production between MTV and The Discovery Channel: who says the spectacle of watching someone get punched in slow motion has more merit when it's on "Time Warp" than when the victim is an unsuspecting Preston Lacy? Not me. Where else will I get to see the force with which a football collides with a man's face when thrown in the blasting exhaust of a jet engine? I'm listening.
Beyond that, the fun is almost more in the before and after than it is in watching the actual stunt. If "jackass" was just a bunch of faceless dudes hurting themselves, then there'd be no reason to watch it; you can see that on YouTube, in convenient, blurry montages, whenever the heart desires. No, the heart and soul of the show, as well as jackass 3D, is that we've come to know these guys, and they all seem like pleasant enough fellows (with the possible exception of Bam Margera), which makes it all the funnier when each one has their turn in front of the camera, looking terrified and angry at the skit they themselves spent time devising and now have to perform. Right at the beginning, there's a gag called "tee ball", which is an extremely basic swiveling contraption, at crotch level, with a ball nailed to it. Not only is the gag itself hilarious in both its simplicity and inevitability (not to mention the fact that someone designed and built it for a single, painful purpose), it's twice as funny to see Steve-O squirming before the gag even starts than it is to see it actually work.
jackass 3D is, of course, in 3D, which comes and goes. When the film utilizes the format -- and you can tell when they're about go to all-out -- it's great. There is a brilliant, untitled sequence, which I will call "rocket launcher", that will send audiences back into their seats, as well as the advertising centerpiece of Steve-O strapping into a filled-up Port-a-Potty and getting bungeed hundreds of feet in the air, and Knoxville riding a Ski-Doo over a backyard hedge (the shot from the dashboard POV is pretty amazing). Other strikingly dimensional visuals include Ryan Dunn doing a flip some 30 feet in the air off of a giant inflated mattress during "duck hunt", Knoxville painted with goofy camouflage trying to hide from an angry bull (once again, the ever-durable Knoxville barely escapes death, a reminder of the hilarious golf cart accident in the first movie), and stellar opening and closing credit gags -- not as good as what they've done before, but still funny and fully primed for the format.
Less "stand-out" but still funny gags involve Knoxville getting blindsided by a professional linebacker (with Seann William Scott as terrified referee), the world's most surreal bar fight, and rigged Honey Buckets (one of which is made all the funnier when you see the victim checking his hair right before the prank goes off). Fans will also be pleased to know that the crew has devised a revival of the missing-in-action tooth-pull gag from the trailers of jackass number two -- not that actual footage (which apparently wasn't even clearable for jackass 2.5 due to the participation of Don Vito), but a recreation, with a new victim. Lastly, as always, there's at least one sketch that will ruin your appetite (full disclosure: I couldn't watch it), and several others that splatter the screen with excrement. See it before eating, not after.
There's a wistful tone to the proceedings, especially in an end-credit montage of youthful photographs and first stunts. It's clear that the men in jackass 3D are slightly wary, slightly weary adults, as opposed to the spry anarchists that would drive out into the desert to shoot themselves in the chest with a revolver, or even stick a fishhook through their cheek. There's not quite as much invention or risk this time around: the gimmick is the 3D, and the movie, as such, ranks a bit lower than its predecessors. Margera in particular has a mean streak in him that both makes it desirable to see him being picked on, but also dampens the mood; it's hard for the film to recover from his intensely negative reaction to another elaborate snake prank (you'd think he'd be expecting it by now). Still, it's pretty amazing that after a successful TV series and three films worth of punching (is there a scene in this film where Knoxville isn't defensively covering his genitals?), falling, pooping, and barfing, all of these guys are still standing. It's insane. The resilience of the human body. That shit belongs in a museum.
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