Some movies are like a fine Merlot, some a can of Dr. Pepper, and some a juice box. The Jackass franchise is a spiked juice box: you can’t give it to a kid, but only with a kid’s taste would you find it even remotely appealing.
That gray area is where the merrily sadistic Jackass crew has thrived, and they’re back in their fourth and likely final big-screen outing, Jackass Forever. Unfamiliar with the franchise, I spent the week leading up to the release of this new installment catching up on twenty years of Jackass.
I am now a Jackass expert, which I’ve no doubt will prove to be a valuable life skill.
I had a surprisingly good time with this franchise, and I’m happy to report that Johnny Knoxville, Steve-O, Chris Pontius, Wee Man and company went out with a bang in Jackass Forever. It’s bigger, louder, more painful, and even more stupid than any Jackass before.
While it’s difficult to quantify the success of something like this, my only basis for criticism is my personal experience. I watched the film alone in a large, nearly-empty theater. These circumstances might’ve been detrimental to the experience of watching most comedies, but, in the case of Jackass Forever, consuming the film without a crowd didn’t make me wince, cringe, or shriek any less. That’s a testament to its insanity, and that’s maybe all fans need to hear. One moment in particular (involving a pogo stick — that’s all I’ll say), prompted an audible “Stop it!” out of me. I wasn’t even talking to anyone, it was just an irrational expression of shock and disgust that needed to escape.
But, while the stunts are a thrill, the real draw to these films is the performers. We see ourselves in their very clear affection for each other, and even more so in their affection for their work, sick as it may be.
“I never thought I’d live to see the day… you live to see this day,” confessed Trevor Noah in a recent interview with the fifty-year-old Knoxville, “You’re still trying to die.”
“Still trying to entertain,” Knoxville responded.
He didn’t even blink when he said that. That enthusiasm and complete lack of hesitation in the way that Knoxville and his friends regard Jackass speaks not only to their fans’ investment in these movies, but also our surprising admiration for the cast due to their undying commitment to one of the least appealing jobs on the planet.
In a stunt gone wrong near the end of Jackass Forever, Knoxville was flipped multiple times over by a charging bull, he landed on his face, and was soon knocked cold and snoring on the ground before being rushed to the hospital. We later learn that he had broken a wrist, a rib, and suffered a concussion. Soon after he came to, on the ground, in a moment that would’ve left anyone else questioning their life choices, Knoxville simply turned to director Jeff Tremaine and muttered, “Did we get it, Jeff?”