The Jackass movies are unique cinematic endeavors. Structurally speaking, their closest cousins are anthology films, but there isn’t any attempt at “narrative” to be found. They have the vérité of documentaries, but nothing that can be specifically defined as a “subject.” They are blunt force comedy molded with the freedom that comes with disregarding any bounds of “story.” Each entry in the series is an assemblage of relatively diffuse creative ideas executed in the name of entertainment at the purposeful physical and mental expense of the performers.
These unique qualities generally mean two things: The first is that you’re either on board with it or you’re not; the second is that the only real way to judge a Jackass movie is in comparison to the other Jackass movies.
Considering these points in regards to director Jeff Tremaine’s Jackass Forever, the first should really be obvious: if you’ve hated all of the previous Jackass movies, this latest sequel is not going to be the entry in the series that changes your mind. It is, in a sense, “more of the same,” and if that’s not you’re your cup of tea, there’s nothing wrong with that, but you need not buy a ticket.
As far as comparing it to Jackass: The Movie, Jackass Part Two, and Jackass 3D, the new film is arguably the most impressive yet. In addition to pulling off the challenge of introducing a small group of new performers who exhibit the same fantastic spirit and passion as the veterans, the sequel sees stars like Johnny Knoxville, Steve-O, Chris Pontius, Wee Man, Preston Lacy, “Danger” Ehren McGhehey, and Dave England still running at top speed. These demented troupers have been doing their thing for over 20 years now, and their spectacular commitment is not only perpetually hilarious, but honestly awe-inspiring.
Filmed during the pandemic, Jackass Forever doesn’t have some of the same scope of its predecessors (there are no trips to India or other such globetrotting adventures in this one) and there isn’t nearly as much stranger pranking as we normally see; but that ultimately serves to let the group be more internally focused than normal and double down on their bread and butter: penis humor and pain. Within the first three bits there is a kaiju parody that has Chris Pontius’ painted gentiles serving as a monster, and a trivia contest that has contenders correctly answer fourth grade-level questions lest they be hit in the crotch by a trigger-rigged mechanical arm.
Sometimes the setups are endurance trials – like “The Quiet Game,” which sees performers try to stay silent while licking a stun gun, kissing a venomous snake, and having a skateboard dropped on their ankles. Sometimes the ideas are pranks – like “Silence Of The Lambs,” which finds victims trapped in a completely dark room full of traps and surrounded by eager tormenters wearing night vision goggles. And sometimes it’s just about putting on a weird, disgusting, or amazing show – like “The Flight Of Icarus,” which has Johnny Knoxville launched from a canon and soaring above a lake with homemade, feathered wings. Jackass Forever is a constant cycle of this insanity, and there isn’t a dull minute in it.
Jackass Forever doesn’t pull punches with its veteran cast, and it’s legitimately impressive.
When Jackass first began its run as a television series in 2000, the members of its principal cast were all in their mid to late twenties. One would at least somewhat understand it if the returning performers didn’t go quite as hard in Jackass Forever now that they are all pushing 50 – leaving the most gnarly material to the up-and-comers… but these are people with their own special brand of artistic integrity.
You get the sense that this movie wouldn’t exist if everybody wasn’t committed to leaving everything on the big screen, and that’s a significant part of its magic. Johnny Knoxville probably doesn’t have the bone density that he once did, but that’s not stopping him from trying to pull off a gag in front of a charging bull, and Steve-O can still walk away from an exploding porta-potty laughing instead of screaming.
If one were to label a champion of Jackass Forever’s cast, however, it is “Danger” Ehren McGhehey, who puts on one hell of a show both as a volunteer and as a helpless victim. A remake of “The Cup Test” from the original series sees him experience punishment to his groin beyond anything I’ve ever seen on the big screen, and what unfolds during what is dubbed “The Lie Detector” is hysterics-inducing and best experienced as a surprise on the big screen (hopefully you haven’t been watching the trailers too closely). When he’s at the center of a bit, something incredible and terrible is happening.
The new stars of Jackass Forever prove they have what it takes to carry the torch.
Given how great it is to see original Jackass cast members back together in Jackass Forever, the film does take on a certain risk introducing fresh faces – gambling that audiences will like them just as much as the familiar ones. It is, however, a gamble that pays off. I can’t say I know anything about the vetting that went into finding the new performers, but it was clearly a successful process. Sean “Poopies” McInerney, Davon Lamar Wilson a.k.a. Jasper, Zach “Zackass” Holmes, Rachel Wolfson, and Eric Manaka all demonstrate the extreme fortitude and effervescence necessary to stand tall among stupendous and stupid legends, and make us laugh until it hurts as they get lip injections from a scorpion sting or try to fly over a cactus pit with a kite strapped to their back.
Jackass Forever is a surprising nostalgia hit that often works well as a requel.
Introducing a new generation of stars while also hitting audiences with nostalgia bombs like the redo of “The Cup Test,” Jackass Forever is a film that actually slots in nicely with the on-going “requel” trend in Hollywood, and it generates a particular charm that wasn’t accessible to the previous movies – especially for those who have their own fond memories with the franchise. Personally, the new sequel took me back to being 13 years old and falling off the couch laughing while watching Steve-O try to puke up a living goldfish. I imagine many fellow millennials will experience similar memory blasts while watching the eternal youths of Jackass return to their classic antics.