Johnny Knoxville and company return for the third installment of their TV show spin-off, where dangerous stunts and explicit public displays rule. 

Guilty, grungy giggles.

I would lay money that the Jackass crew, Johnny Knoxville, Bam Margera, Chris Pontius, Wee Man and Steve O, just love their reviews, and I’m talking about the bad ones.

Any fully grown adult out there who ever spent time, energy and money as a 14-year-old doing really, really stupid stuff (stunts, pranks, dress-up) must in some way get a flashback feeling of 'O yeah man, I remember that sh*t’ when ever they see a Jackass gag (at least the blokes might"¦but then, I also remember our girlfriends were a ready and willing audience too, and occasional cast members in our back yard adrenaline-rush quest). The idea of Jackass follows the same impulse any early teen has when they want to hit out at the pompous, the stuck up, the rule makers and Anyone Who Thinks They’re in Charge. The strategy is Gross Out and Shock; the weapons of choice are usually home made (or can be bought at the Mall) and bodily functions that can create episodes of social embarrassment, such as vomiting, sweating and farting, as well bowel movements, can come to play a major role (and let this be a warning to the naïve and uninitiated - this is the kind of movie where characters defecate on camera and in close up).

Of course, Jackass doesn't take the the garage-days ambience at all seriously; the stuff on show looks like it took time, money and resources to knock together (if the visual style of the movie has that reality-TV grungy ambience). None of this looks like fun to perform (but that's the point). But then, there's a warning not to try any of this stuff at home.

Since the Jackass boys started a decade ago in the States, the team and their corporate minders, MTV and Paramount have come under scrutiny by authorities for creating a dangerous role model for kids. Still, a big part of the humour of Jackass, the TV show and movie franchise, and an essential element of their 'cool’ cred, is to do with the fact that these are grown men, not kids, performing pranks and stunts that aren’t just funny but dangerous in a, well, goofy way. Example? Well, in this their third movie, there’s a gag set in snow country; two of our boys climb a tree and once they finish their climb we learn it’s a 60ft/18m drop; meanwhile, an accomplice takes a chainsaw to the base of the tree. It topples. The boys land – hard, their fall faintly cushioned by a thick snow drift. Cast members, acting like some cheer-squad, guffaw wildly at the cameras (as they do after each of the many, many gags here); while the stunt 'victims’ writhe in pain.

The outcome of the pranks and gags may be occasionally unpredictable (this is a brand of physical comedy based on a formula where a lack of precise attention to physics is crucial to the humour quotient).The format never feels spontaneous; and that’s part of the fun for the audience"¦ we can laugh and not hate ourselves for laughing because the real guilty party, the on-screen pranksters, are far, far worse.

Still, occasionally, some real-life leaks through the reel-life here. After one really nasty stunt, one of the team drops his good ol’ boy, I’m up for anything persona, and lets his guard down. A look of emotional exhaustion creeps momentarily across his face. But self-reflection is the enemy of fun here and director Jeff Tremaine keeps the pace up (after a rather slow start); the shooting style is straightforward and there’s prolific use of multiple angles and action replays (a technique that mocks old-style sports coverage). The 3D is pretty useless in the faux-doco stuff; its only in the studio that Tremaine makes much use of it (like a flying dildo that comes out of the screen...don't ask).

The Jackass movies aren’t documentary films in the conventional sense; there’s no 'story’ arc or even a gimmick to follow. But I did notice a sort of structure; big outdoor physical stunts are juxtaposed with indoor 'frat-boy’ party trick gags (one of the guest 'stars’ here can shoot a dart out of his anus by virtue of his skill at producing 'gas’ as a propellant).

As to the gags themselves... well, some of them border on the pornogrpahic and thus can't be described in detail on a website like this. But then, some of the more elaborate gags have a real impish wit and physical spectacle that buys into the great movie and circus traditions (like watching a daredevil get shot out of a cannon or dive from 20m into a wading pool! There's one very funny and complicated routine where the Jackass lads go virtual 'duck hunting'. The 'rifles' are paint-guns and the 'plastic ducks' are stuntmen dressed in a ludicrous costume of feathers 'n' jumpsuit. To launch the 'duck' two guys have to jump off a suspended platform into a giant rubber cushion; this impact then propels the duck-man into the air... where he performs a long and lavish parabola - which is where he gets 'shot', before majestically plumeting into a creek. Still, no matter how grungy it looks, you never forget that this is a movie, that in a very real sense,. 'it's fake', a contrivance, a show, a put-on. It's a vent for teen-angst; a liberation fantasy with humiliation and genital torture.


1 hour 34 min
In Cinemas 04 November 2010,
Thu, 03/17/2011 - 11