“20 years later, we’re still doing the same stupid shit.”
Steeped in nostalgia and shit and jizz (yes, I mean that quite literally), Jackass Forever is a warm welcome back to old friends with older faces and a cold introduction to a few new young guns who leave an easily washed away skid mark. It’s understandable that the original crew – mostly returning here in its entirety – would want to use this latest film as a passing of the torch. After all, most of them are hovering around the half century point. A body (specifically the scrotum) can only take so many hits and the mind can only endure so much psychological trauma, even if it is coming from decades long friendships. Jackass Forever is about as funny a film as I imagine I’ll see this year, but parts are simply missing the magic of it all. You can’t fake chemistry; even they prove that by finally lighting a fart underwater.
Known for their bombastic opening sequences, the latest in the franchise is no exception to that rule, going more over the top than ever before. It cleverly mixes a big budget set piece with the kind of miniature work you’d find in something like 1964’s Mothra vs. Godzilla. Think about this gang’s greatest fascinations we’ve come to learn over the years and you’ll likely be able to guess towards which border this one is headed. It’s lewd, gross, and incredibly imaginative all at once. And when it’s over we get the classic cut away to ringleader Johnny Knoxville welcoming us to Jackass as these grown men giggle with glee around him. Turns out that not only can you get paid to do all the things you got detention for growing up, you can make a career out of it. What a concept.
Filling the clown shoes of the iconic names in this tamed motley crew is an unenviable chore for any fresh blood. I genuinely don’t remember two of the newbies as they left very little impression, and one I don’t even recall seeing in the film altogether. The remaining three fill out their screen time in very different ways. Perhaps none is more game than Zach Holmes, who’s already been on MTV and seems like a gentle giant who’s willing to do absolutely anything these idols he worships tell him to do. There’s also comedian Rachel Wolfson, the first female of the group. I find all of the hubbub around this “first” in the marketing campaign and the press junkets rather disingenuous though. Excluding the opening and beginning, she appears in only 5 bits, and is simply a background player in 3 of those. She proves her toughness during the ones where she gets center stage, and excluding her from any stunts threatening real physical injury feels more misogynistic than not having a woman on the billing at all. Then there’s Sean “Poopies” McInerney. The way her carries himself, his voice, and his intense reactions harken back to when the original castmates were young and reckless. He’s the only new addition who feels anything like an authentic Jackass, and I mean that as a compliment.
It’s been interesting to see the progression of these impish Peter Pans over time, still refusing to give up the childish antics but taking on a noticeable and more mature behavior. There’s less partying, more genuine concern for another’s wellbeing, and glimmers of paternal instinct throughout. And while they’ve gotten older, they remain none the wiser, especially Knoxville as he so often risks life and limb to get “the shot.” With each additional film the series goes further and further away from the guerilla style filmmaking it was originally so famous for, and while that’s most likely due to the worldwide fame of the performers, it’s still missing that raw edge. That especially goes for the final sequence here, which comes out guns blazing only to shoot blanks. It’s a disappointing sendoff. But when it’s focusing on these obscene friendship bonds where personal space is virtually non-existent, Jackass Forever reels you back in with warmth, high-pitched laughter, and enough full frontal nudity to make its R rating seem as tame as an angry bull seeing red.
“I’ve been watching Jackass since I was 12 years old, and guess what? We’re here.”
Rating: 3.5 out of 5