Since the airing of the first “Jackass” episodes on MTV in 2000 Johnny Knoxville, Bam Margera, Steve-O, and crew have been entertaining the Great Unwashed by putting their life and limb on the line. Their antics could easily be dismissed as juvenile, ridiculous, or even irresponsible, and it would be true, but unfortunately that is only scraping the surface. In a world of reality shows, huge budget action films, and twenty-four hour news coverage the new film “Jackass 3D”is more than just entertainment, it is art.
As a culture we Americans are obsessed with schadenfreude. How else could one explain Bob Saget’s bloated bank account? Watching any of today’s modern game shows like “America’s Next Top Model” to “Top Chef, ” it is easy to see that the amount of air time devoted to the winner of the week’s competition is vastly out weighed by that dedicated to the loser. ABC’s hit “Wipeout,” or basic cable Japanese imports like “Maximum Extreme Challenge” or “Ninja Warrior” are other prime examples; the occasional successes on those programs are fun, but the overwhelming failures are why viewers tune in. We revel in watching people squirm, in pain, mentally or physically. “Jackass 3D” takes the concept, one which most people will outright deny – that they enjoy watching the suffering of others, if for nothing more than to prove to themselves that their lives are not as bad as those on screen – and blows it up to mammoth proportions. Not only is the audience treated to watching two hours of intense pain, degradation, and psychological torture (the bit with Bam and the snakes is a particular example), but they are encouraged to laugh at it.
Though it is made okay because these hooligans signed up for the opportunity. They are being paid, and willingly subject themselves to such pain. Had they not the laughter would not be so forthcoming. Knoxville and crew are pummeled by each other, various titanic farm animals, and stunt after stunt gone wrong. And it is a treat. Mainly because there is no guilt. These people are martyring themselves time and time again for the enjoyment of others. They are compensated, and compensated well I’m sure, but in doing so they are making it okay for the audience to enjoy this feeling of being alive by comparison, without the guilt inherent in watching the ills of others.
And their ills are vast. There are stunts a plenty, more of the same that we have been watching in both previous films, but the true joy resides in the pranks. To live in the “Jackass” world must be akin to inhabiting the Swat Valley – always on edge, in maddeningly tense anticipation for the next assault that could come from any direction. It is evidenced in the body language every cast member exhibits after a filmed blitzkrieg on another. They all protect their groins. Everyone, from “Wee-Man” to director Jeff Tremaine,girdtheir loins in fear of retribution, or even an unprovoked attack. The fear of a strike may be worse than the strike itself.
But really that cannot be true. Some of the stunts in “Jackass 3D” may go too far even for diehard fans. One including a Lamborghini and a snaggle tooth is extremely off-putting, but again the victim signed up for it. His fear going into the stunt is palpable, and his pain afterwards is cringe-worthy, but the audience still laughed.
To be sure this film is not the most memorable of the series, the second taking home that honor, but still will be one of the funniest films of the year. Certain gags like the High-Five and the pilates ball sling-shot are pretty amazing, but most will just fade into the long list of absurd hijinx these guys have pulled over the last ten years. The third dimension is utilized well occasionally, but for the most part is completely unnecessary, and laughing that hard with those annoying glasses on actually can make the film exhausting.
Despite that the picture is brilliant because it strips away all pretext and gives the public what it wants. There is no moralizing, no judgment, just pure enjoyment watching someone else get hurt. And in doing so is a painful reminder of what it is to be alive, and to be human. With the economy ever faltering, the threat of terrorism ever present, mental and physical warfare at the office and at home, life can be as punishing as a punch in the nuts. It is good to be able to sit back, and watch someone else to take one for a change.
El Luchador Rating: 5 out of 5
Review By: Paul S. Myers (a.k.a. El Luchador)