Director: Jeff Tremaine
Stars: Johnny Knoxville, Chris Pontius, Eric André
I have a wonderful group of friends. And it is a group. Couples. A few single stragglers now, after all these years. When we’re together it’s just comfortable. It’s easy. They’re The Best People. And for one reason or another – mostly one reason – we’ve gone long stretches without seeing each other recently. And getting all of us together at once? Well, that’s getting harder and harder to navigate. It’s bittersweet. And I do miss the ease of years gone by when we’d hang out every week, like it was nothing. Now there are commitments. Kids. Viruses. It’s a whole deal. We’re supposed to all meet up today for the first time in six months or more. We won’t get everyone. Because of reasons, y’know? That’s life.
The filming of Jackass Forever was protracted. Because of, y’know, reasons. Injuries (these guys ain’t getting any younger!). Viruses. If you think it’s strange seeing the Jackass buddies growing older, just wait for the subtler strangeness of watching them wait around in facemasks. But as much as they wear their daredevil tomfoolery as a badge of honour, and the pranks come thick and fast, there’s sense of something else at the heart of Jackass Forever.
Getting back together with your people. Especially now.
Getting to watch these idiots do it gives some unexpected gratification. Reunion by proxy.
So Jackass Forever is shot through with a surprisingly touching undercurrent, but let’s not get highfalutin about all this. Anyone scrambling to make too much out of what this is will get shot down by the opening credit sequence, in which Chris Pontius’ dick and balls star as a kaiju threatening a model city, intercut with the rest of the rang getting flung around on a studio backlot. And blasted with the semen hose. One assumes it’s fake semen. After what happens to Dave England later on though, who knows…
This childish – but superb – tilt to Godzilla belies an appreciation for the movies that recurs in the work of these pranksters. Not much later, one of the film’s highlights is a prank that they title ‘Silence of the Lambs’; an elaborately staged basement set-up that plunges several of the Jackass boys into complete darkness. Cue night-vision! And the grande finale finds Knoxville playing dress-up as Col. Kilgore from Apocalypse Now, loving “the smell of napalm in the morning” as the rest of his buddies go through merry hell. They may be more interested in busting each other’s balls – figuratively and literally – but there’s also an understanding that, in the process, they’re joining a lineage of entertainment; a medium through which all tastes are catered.
Fuck, I said I wasn’t going to get too highfalutin…
It’s a riot, as usual. Knoxville – either with his hair dyed to match the old days or shot through totally with natural silver – is the handsome Mr. Fox; ringmaster to a joyous geek-show. Seeing Steve-O, Pontius, Wee-Man and the other returning veterans still up for this, still charged by their own crude creativity gives an instant flood of endorphins, and watching Jackass Forever with an audience generates a genuine buzz of good feeling. If you feel comfortable doing so, the cinema’s where this one should be appreciated.
There are new faces in the fold, as though the old boys are eschewing in a new generation to their madness (and they kind of are; for many Jackass Forever will be their gonzo initiation into the work of these clowns). Of these, Zach Holmes seems the most gleefully eager to fuck-up his own existence, creating several moments of gross-out daredevil spectacle. Some of the other newbies seem a little gun-shy, however, and the celebrity cameos produce a mixed bag of results. Tyler, the Creator gets his own back beautifully, mind, and it’s always rewarding to see Machine Gun Kelly getting hurt.
If anything, this new set of skits is even more focused on genital pain and the threat of vicious animals. The latter feels a bit dated now. Sure, the film comes with assurances at the end of the credits from American Humane that no animals were injured… but all seem cajoled or distressed to some degree, and it pinches at the otherwise unrelenting sense of joie de vivre.
But in the main – so long as you can handle a bunch of middle-aged men showing you their junk – Jackass Forever conjures the same puerile glee as it’s predecessors and, in the process, a Neverland like quality. They’ve greyed and wrinkled around the eyes and elsewhere, but these are the boys who never grew up.
May they stay that way for, well, forever.