By Lynn Venhaus
Do not try any of these stunts at home. Seriously.
Imitating the now-famous reckless TV show did injure youngsters playing at home, and the new “Jackass Forever” movie warns people at the start and at the end, just as all the spin-offs and original have.
Just in case someone is in the mood for a genitals smackdown or to get within biting distance of a venomous snake — or a tarantula or an angry vulture, because of course it looked like so much fun second-hand on screen.
The fourth movie – well fifth, if you count “Bad Grandpa,” spun off from the American reality comedy television series on MTV for three seasons, 2000-2002, was created by Jeff Tremaine, Spike Jonze, and Johnny Knoxville. It featured nine guys carrying out some dangerous, disturbing, and gross stunts and pranks with childish glee. They have added new crew for this, for Ryan Dunn was killed in a car accident, and Bam Margera did not return.
Actor, filmmaker, and ringleader Knoxville has brought most of the band back together 12 years after the last movie (“Jackass 3D”) to recreate the zany schemes his group of daredevils became known for at the turn of the century.
Trying to light a fart underwater – apparently after unsuccessful attempts all these years later – is a serious mission for these merry pranksters.
Although they look like they are having fun creating mayhem, they watch their pals go through physical – and psychological – agony, breaking out into gales of laughter as someone unsafely lands and appear in excruciating pain. Survival relief!
This chucklefest is strictly for fans, for would the uninitiated understand the appeal of putting your private parts in harm’s way and a jubilee of bodily fluids – all of them.
But fans early on embraced the crazy, the wilder the better, when the show caught fire on MTV in 2000, and brought out the 13-year-old in its viewers.
My Baby Boomer generation had the Three Stooges, albeit in re-runs, and my two sons, Millennials, had “Jackass.” I’d hear loud laughter coming out of their room during every episode. It’s just a fact – boys like to participate in doing stupid things and viewing others in outrageous antics became a cultural phenomenon.
The show became MTV’s highest-rated ever on a Sunday night. Yet, the show ignited controversy over the indecency and the danger, and Knoxville pulled the plug after three seasons. Shifting to movies, box office was big – nearly $500 million worldwide, and then spin-off specials and shows resulted.
Watching some wacky oddballs in masochistic hijinks for amusement still appeals. During the pandemic, it’s been a rarity to hear that much laughter in a movie theater, but at the advance screening, grown men — unabashed fans — laughed out loud for 96 minutes, with outtakes and behind the scenes running over the end credits.
The opening credits scene, a parody of a Godzilla movie, was equal parts hilarity and disgusting, with Chris Pontius, aka “The Naked Guy,” subbing his family jewels for the monster. For about a half-hour, the absurd stunts and recording the terror on the guys’ faces, were comical, starting with Tony Hawk skateboarding over a ‘human ramp’ and especially the “Silence of the Lambs’ fake-out with poisonous (perhaps) snakes.
But for me, a female who doesn’t fit the demographic, the winces and the grimaces eventually took over. The jokes wore thin. During a copious vomit finale, I had to close my eyes.
Basically, “Jackass” appeals to the inner child buried somewhere in these dark days of adulthood. So, the timing is right.
However, it’s not exactly the nostalgic greatest hits package people expected. Some of the knuckleheads who became known for taking part in the outlandish bits, having unpleasant things done to them, have returned for more punishment. They’re older, if not necessarily wiser, but what they put their bodies through must take much longer to recover as time passes.
In “The Cup Test,” Ehren McGhehey had to be in anguish wearing an athletic guard while being punched by MMA fighter Francis Ngannou, getting a puck to the groin by New Jersey Devils’ P.K, Subban, Dave England standing on him with a pogo stick and softball pitcher Danielle O’Toole taking aim.
But the players are game. They’ve become household names to fans.
Two flabby overweight guys and the genial Jeff “Wee Man” Acuna take part in an elaborate exercise called “Triple Wedgie” that looked like it hurt.
Knoxville’s encounter with a bull during “The Magic Trick” left him with a broken wrist, broken rib, concussion, and brain hemorrhage. Steve-O sustained a concussion.
The fact that they are all buddies comes through, but there are new people added that don’t seem to share the group’s enthusiasm. Compston Wilson, called “Dark Shark,” wonders what he got himself into while trying to avoid a spider bite (that would be the scary fangs of a tarantula).
The sole female is a good addition, but Rachel Wolfson isn’t used nearly enough. She has a scorpion placed on her for “Scorpion Botox” and licks a taser current in a mime bit.
The excessive amount of full-frontal male nudity on display is surprising, and rather shocking, for it doesn’t appear that the Motion Picture Association of America ratings board questioned it, slapping an R on the film for “strong crude material and dangerous stunts, graphic nudity, and language throughout.”
The dropping trou is not used in an erotic way, but for icky challenges, like getting whacked in the groin if giving a wrong answer in “The Dum Dum Game” and former clown Steve-O besieged by worker bees attracted to the Queen Bee that was placed underneath his penis. They highlight where he was stung.
Guest stars include comedian Eric Andre, also credited for concepts, and rap star Machine Gun Kelly, both fans.
Nevertheless, with a title like “Jackass Forever,” fans know exactly what they are getting, and Knoxville doesn’t disappoint. He knows his audience.
“Jackass Forever” is a 2022 comedy directed by Jeff Tremaine and starring Johnny Knoxville, Steve-O, Chris Pontius, Jeff “Wee Man” Acuna, Eric Andre, Dave England and Ehren McGehey. It is rated R for strong crude material and dangerous stunts, graphic nudity, and language throughout and run time is 1 hour, 36 minutes. It opened in theaters Feb. 4. Lynn’s Grade: C
Lynn Venhaus has had a continuous byline in St. Louis metro region publications since 1978. She is a Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic, currently reviews films for Webster-Kirkwood Times and KTRS Radio, covers entertainment for PopLifeSTL.com and co-hosts podcast PopLifeSTL.com…Presents, and writes features and news for Belleville News-Democrat and contributes to other publications. She is a member of CCA, AWFJ and St. Louis Film Critics Association. She is a founding member of the St. Louis Theater Circle.