I wasn’t planning on seeing “Jackass Forever”, the fourth film based on the once weirdly popular MTV reality show. The proudly dimwitted franchise’s crude and over-the-top antics earned it a pretty vocal legion of fans. Though admittedly amusing at times, the “Jackass” schtick ran its course with me a long time ago. Yet here sits “Jackass Forever”, a revival of the series that hasn’t been on the big screen since 2010. And that it sits at almost 90% on Rotten Tomatoes is more bewildering than the movie’s existence after over a decade away. That’s why I decided to see it.
Created by Jeff Tremaine, Spike Jonze, and Johnny Knoxville, the “Jackass” television series ran on MTV from 2000 to 2003 before blossoming into its own film franchise. Routinely crossing the bounds of taste and decency became equally if not more important to the showrunners than good comedy. And you could argue that that trend continues in “Jackass Forever” which isn’t as much of a movie as it is a collection of stunts, gags, and pranks pulled between friends.
Some have tried assigning deeper themes to the film (masculinity, the rituals of male bonding, etc.). But “Jackass Forever” is really just more of the same – grown men doing stupid stuff for the camera to shock their audience and test the MPAA’s limits. The big difference here is the guys have gotten older and it seems they can now get away with pretty much anything.
Knoxville and company bring back some of the old stunts from their past shows and add a few new ones in that same vein. Stuff like getting bucked to the moon by a bull. Blowing up portable toilets. Or shooting themselves out of a cannon. The hidden camera pranks have always been my favorite bits. Unfortunately there aren’t many to be found in “Jackass Forever”. That’s because so much time is spent punching each other in the privates, shooting paintballs at each other in the privates, electrocuting their privates, putting honey bees all over their privates, putting costumes on their privates, luring a vulture to peck their privates, and so on.
Maybe I’m expecting a too much from a stunt-based reality television show brought to the big screen. Then again, maybe I’m not. Maybe it’s not a stretch to want a glorified sketch show to go for more than cheap lowbrow material. Yet it keeps going back to it, which will probably satisfy the hardcore fans, but it ultimately becomes an endurance tests for those of us lacking the nostalgic attachment to this nutty franchise.
“Jackass Forever” seems to operate under the banner “the trashier the better”. It seems more interested in pushing the envelope with full frontal male nudity, bodily fluids, and constant butt shots rather than pushing itself to be funnier, crazier, and more spontaneous. Shock and gross-outs take precedent over anything creative or original. It’s just exhausting. I suppose there is something to say for a bunch of long-time friends having fun doing their own thing. I just don’t remember their “thing” being this unbearable. “Jackass Forever” is now showing in theaters.