Jackass 3.5 Review: Dance, Prank Monkey, Dance!
Jackass is a phenomenon, each film less of a concept and more a brand name. As a film critic, I adore these documentaries. And it took me the longest time to reason out why. Jackass is reliable. When I go to see a more conventional film, the trailers promise me one thing, and more often than not, the final product turns out to be well different from the original. But not with Jackass. It's always going to be the same thing: a bunch of juvenile stunt men doing outrageous stunts. Damaging themselves with ramps and bodily functions, taunting and tormenting each other for my devious amusement. Even if I don't find a particular setup entertaining -- like Jackass 3D's fecal volcano -- there's going to be another stunt mere moments away. Deep inside me, in that primal portion of my makeup that will always find farts funny, crouches that demented inner child that twists any phrase into sexual innuendo and forces my eyeline to the neckline of any girl that walks by. So I appreciate that while Jackass may not be everyone's cup of tea, it's very much a cup of tea, and Lipton at that. It's simple, sophomoric, and as dependable as a McDonald's cheeseburger. And basically, if you can stomach Jackass there's no reason you wouldn't adore more of the same in Jackass 3.5, available exclusively through Amazon Instant Video.
Built for the short attention span stuttering laughter of the "Beavis and Butt-head" crowd, Jackass features the antics of a group of boorish drug addicts who crave injury. When they set out to film these deviant attempts at a redneck suicide and cull them together in a final film, they inevitably shoot somewhere in the neighborhood of 4 to 5 hours of footage. Since most acts start life in the addled brainpans of these overgrown adolescents and only require the uttering of "wouldn't it be funny if" to coming birthing forth like a cretinous cousin to Athena, they'll shoot for months and weeks, damaging themselves on tape repeatedly to see if they can make something of the mess. But this format does not lend itself readily to a longform, and so most of what doesn't make the cut ends up as bonus footage. And so the Jackass legion have started creating their .5 films. Jackass 2.5 was less than enthralling, and felt really like a missing extra on the Jackass 2 DVD. Whereas, I feel that Jackass 3.5 is actually an improvement on Jackass 3D, a completely separate set of stunts that capitalizes on what they were doing with the third film, but expanding and improving. There's still the same focus on genitals, surfing on non-conventional materials, and kicking the fuck out of each other for shits and giggles, yet, it's toned down and focused. It's like the Jackass dudes took their Ritalin and looked back over what they with frat hangover glee. It's not the "I Can't Believe We Did That" of a remorseful groom, it's the "I Can't Fucking Believe We Did That!" high-fiving of his bachelor buddies.
Jackass 3.5 features a ton of new stunts crammed into a surprisingly full 85 minutes, the same kind of acts we'd expect from the fellas like firing a "cockrocket" into "Uranus" -- namely sending a rocket-propelled dildo from a spandex spacesuited Ryan Dunn's crotch into the naked buttocks of a similarly tin-foil clad Bam Margera. And yet, there's this neat kind of behind the scenes conversational bits that contextualizes the stunts. There's a layer to the antics, a sort of limitless spending spree in the hands of shit-flinging monkeys smart enough to use sticks to poke fire anthills and what they'd do with them, and why, and how.
Johnny Knoxville is forever purchasing elaborate toys to taunt his co-stars, from a mini-cannon inspired by a Buster Keaton film to a "ghetto defibriliator" which they use to electrocute sleeping cohorts. In one of the stunts, the cast dresses up in t-shirts and underwear with red goggles and red headbands to resemble bowling pins. They stand on a massive blue platform coated in gallons of sex lube. A chunky friend decked out in black stands atop the ramp prepared to carom down the slide and crash into them for "Human Bowling." But this isn't the stunt. The entire thing is an elaborate ruse so that Knoxville can ambush them with his latest toy: a remote controlled helicopter that has twin paintball cannons. And his cohorts can't escape because they're standing in the middle of a massive platform slick with lubricant. It goes off beautifully, and Knoxville stands there, laughing with his gooed-up and shot-to-shit pals, explaining how he went to elaborate lengths to pull off the prank, and what expenses they spent just to nail them. As he's talking, Chris Pontius standing next to him in the foreground, casually pulls out his penis and points it at Knoxville, and starts pissing on him. A hundred thousand dollar prank gets trumped by a long-haired stoner whipping out his dick and pissing. And that's the beauty of Jackass.
Despite the often crass actions, these guys seriously are stuntmen. And while they may not be Zoe Belling on the hood of a fast moving car or diving out of an exploding building, they are seriously doing some intensive and inventive acts. Just because they tend to be the type of things that end up as YouTube Eulogies or prizewinners on "America's Funniest Home Videos" shouldn't detract from some of the crazier shit they pull. There's an entire sequence where they explain how for eight months, Knoxville tried to film these elaborate nut-shots with a basketball. Testicles V. Sporting Equipment can practically be considered a genre unto itself. And yet, as the crew and director Jeff Tremaine bitch about the 13 hour days spent trying aimlessly to get one fucking successful shot, the end results are explosive levels of awesome. It's not a matter of simply throwing a basketball at another man's cojones, oh lord no. He bounces it off a bridge a over a watershed, he hurls them from an overpassing bi-plane he's sitting on the wing of, he sends one caroming off a ferris wheel on to a waiting trampoline. It's an artistic achievement in the science of the nut-shot, and it's funny as fucking hell.
Jackass 3.5 isn't exactly haute couture film. It's the lowest common denominator of filmmaking, a few steps above "Ow My Balls." It's a group of infantile morons hurting each other for our amusement -- setting each other on fire, crashing through drywall on skateboards, falling down skateramps to skull-rattling thuds, tying things to each others balls and dicks. But there's a certain creativity -- Chris Pontius wears a prosthetic wooden sheath over his penis while a bird pecks it to splinters: a woodpecker attacking a wood pecker. And there's a darkness and paranoia to the set: they live in constant fear of getting busted up just as bad as the elaborate setups on camera. During Jackass 3D Bam Margera was going around doing "The Rocky": sneaking up on unsuspecting victims and hurling a cup of water in their face before blasting them with a boxing glove. In one of the setups, they show a prank between Bam and Danger Ehren devolve into violence, with the two of them seriously bashing each other in the face with the intent of drawing blood. It's a little uncomfortable, but then they quickly get back into their love of the phantom slo-mo camera technology and the dizzing beauty of watching Jason "Wee Man" Acuna's nutsack ripple as a tennis ball strikes him. It's the little things, people.
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