Before every movie I see, I tell myself two things: no matter what, try to enjoy the flick as much as possible ... and, in case it doesn't end up that way, be prepared for the worst. Admittedly, I went into Jackass: The Movie expecting a disaster. My familiarity with the popular MTV show involved knowing only that it revolves around a group of guys performing various, often painful, pranks and stunts. I didn't believe a 90-minute movie could work by using the exact same idea as the show, with no plot, screenplay, or sense of decency whatsoever. After seeing the film, I'm surprised to admit it does work. A movie I expected to be a mess won me over and had me laughing by the end of the first stunt.
The TV program "Jackass" features the adventures of Johnny Knoxville and his band of "professionals," who perform gross-out gags and stunts for their amusement as well as for viewers. Without the cable TV restraints of censor bars and certain bleeped-out words, Knoxville and crew take full advantage of being able to do almost whatever they please. The result of their amped-up escapades is the definition of "grossly hilarious." Jackass: The Movie is assembled as a string of these stunts, some lasting a few minutes, others barely a minute. Cast member Bam Margera makes it a mission to constantly terrorize his parents, once by waking them up with fireworks and another time by getting his mom to utter the "F" word. All cast members participate in such stunts as "Bungee Wedgie," "Roller Disco Truck," and a painful sequence involving placing electric ab-shapers on various body parts. Other shocking acts too icky to describe are performed with bottle rockets, trampolines, ceiling fans, and the dreaded yellow snowcone.
What I've described is only the tip of the iceberg here. The stunts get more extreme, painful-looking, and cringe-inducing -- and I was lapping it up every step of the way. What makes Jackass hilarious, I think, is how Knoxville and company press on, dedicated to humiliating themselves and not caring about it. As long as they make their fans laugh, the "Jackass" guys know they've done their job. Of course, viewers might be glad they're not rolling downhill in a giant shopping cart (while the guys inside are beating each other up). Still, when Knoxville, Margera, Ryan Dunn, and the others laugh at themselves at the end of a stunt, it's clear this is how they have fun -- while not promoting others to follow suit (reminders not to perform the stunts in Jackass bookend the film).
Only a handful of Jackass' stunts are overly gross. Most are simple hilarious pranks playing out more like clips that were a bit too extreme for "America's Funniest Home Videos." Just as a ringleader introduces the acts in a circus, Knoxville serves as the film's host, who certainly takes his share of pain (two stunts end up with Knoxville receiving serious injuries). The other players in this comedy of errors gladly perform their duties, whether it includes being on the receiving end of a shaver or falling through the ceiling of an office building.
Sure, you can call Jackass: The Movie repetitive. After all, the film emerges as nothing more than a 90-minute compilation of skits, stunts, and acts no sane person would think of trying. It's gross, indecent, and dimwitted, too. Nevertheless, to this critic, Jackass: The Movie is just plain funny.
MY RATING: *** out of ****
(Review also posted on www.ajhakari.com.)
Released by Paramount Pictures and rated "R" for profanity, violence, and nudity.