Somehow, probably because we only had basic cable growing up – MuchMusic was grey with static sound and TSN was just white noise – I missed the whole Jackass phenomenon. Bam Margera was a name from Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3, Johnny Knoxville was that guy from Walking Tall, and, for all I knew, Chris Pontius was the guy who crucified Jesus. The only stunt I’d ever seen was one where professional jai-alai players hurled citrus fruit at some guys.
So, to my surprise and relief, I found myself howling, guffawing, and recoiling in giggly horror along with everybody else. As much as such things can be eased into, the opening sequence of Jackass 3D sets a relatively harmless bar which will soon be not only lept over, but also pooped upon. Making there’s-no-way-that’s-real use of badass high speed cameras, you see every ripple of flesh as the Jackass crew are pelted with paint balls, each others fists’, and various other violent paraphernalia as they strut across a stage garbed in absurd regalia. And that’s just the first five minutes.
I don’t know how it’s possible to defend this movie, yet still say that there’s a line where things stop being funny, but for nearly any person, there is probably something in Jackass 3D that dances a little too far out of the comfort zone. Somebody being smacked by a giant hand while carrying a tray of soup: Funny. Two men playing tetherball with a beehive: Funny. Watching a hog eat an apple that has been lodged into a man’s buttocks: Horrifying.
Speaking of the guy whose rump is orally violated by a hungry pig, the movie has a problem with the fact that it acts like fat people being fat is inherently funny. Preston Lacey (pictured here, in a rare moment of full-clothedness)
doesn’t participate in any kind of stunt where his body type isn’t the butt of the joke. Except for one instance, where (and I can’t even think about it two months later without laughing) a place kicker launches a football into his face at point blank range. Otherwise, Preston is topless, often wearing just a diaper, because apparently, larger people getting hurt is funnier.
The movie also challenges the line between self-harm and self-degradation. Most of the comedy is based on what these men are willing to put themselves through. Watching a man willingly be charged down by a bull can be funny, assuming that he gets up afterwards and we can laugh with him. Preston, on the other hand, always looks sad after his stunts, which are generally stunts that no one else could perform, because no one else has his body. Generally speaking, we’re not laughing with Preston, we’re laughing at him.
There were two other shticks that bothered me, but that was more due to lack of context. One character that shows up twice is an old man who first steals a scooter and drives it through the shop’s window, and secondly, makes out with a girl he claims is his granddaughter. The part of the joke that I wasn’t let in on is the fact that the old dude is actually Johnny Knoxville. Knowing that tidbit makes the scenario a little less disturbing, but it also provides the unique opportunity to, again, question how funny those two scenes are. As I stated before, the comedy of Jackass comes from the extremity of the team’s willingness for self-harm. When the butt of the joke is unwilling participants (the people in the shop and the poor guy watching a man violate his granddaughter), it moves away from goofy stunt comedy and instead, asks us to laugh at the reaction of a man who damn well should have stepped in to stop this dirty old man’s shenanigans (old man-igans?). I’ll watch the ram attacks, and I’ll laugh as you taze yourselves. I’ll even forgive the accurately-titled “poo volcano,” but I implore the Jackass crew to keep to the stunts and away from harmful pranks. Terrorizing the Margera family is a debatable exception.
As much thinking as I’ve done about this movie, it really is best to just watch the movie and enjoy it. If you’re anything like me, you’ll come away with fond memories and a temptation to go out and do some really stupid stuff.