With an 85% on Rotten Tomatoes, “Jackass Forever” is more beloved than some of the movies that will soon be vying for Best Picture at the Oscars. What’s so special about this movie? It certainly isn’t that Johnny Knoxville and his crew are doing anything different with the “Jackass” template; the movie is a collection of stupid stunts as always, and there’s no story to tie them together like with Knoxville’s “Bad Grandpa” or “Action Point.” Could it be that the world desperately need some hearty laughs after the last two years? That could certainly be a factor. Heck, I desperately needed some laughs after the last two weeks, as I did not have fun at “Redeeming Love” and that pathetic mermaid movie. But I think that fans and critics alike are just so impressed that “Jackass” has been going for over 20 years. No longer can these guys be accused of debasing themselves for a fleeting taste of fame. They are engaging in a full-blown way of life, and they’re tasting… I think a taser is the most publication-friendly thing that comes in contact with a human tongue in this movie.
To be sure, these guys still do not practice socially-acceptable ways of garnering attention. They do dangerous stunts, allow themselves to get bitten and stung by all manner of animal, and pull sick pranks on one another. New to this installment is a form of psychological torture, where participants are placed in a room with a venomous snake and then the lights are turned out. The poor marks have to find their way to the door, occasionally whacking their heads on low-hanging frying pans, getting their fingers caught in mousetraps, and encountering a rubber snake thought to be the venomous one. It’s actually one of the least-dangerous episodes in the movie, unless you count the high likelihood of a heart attack.
It should be noted that many scenes in this movie involve the area… below the belt. The guys never miss an opportunity to hit one another below the belt, or at least show off the area below the belt. An early special-effects driven scene features a monster that looks suspiciously like the area below the belt. It is not unusual for movies buffs to jokingly compare kaiju to the area below the belt, but in this case they’d be absolutely right. A particularly wince-inducing sequence involves a person’s full body weight plus an additional object with a highly-concentrated point of contact being driven into the area below the belt on one of these saps. I have to say something about this movie that I don’t think I’ve ever had to say about a movie before, but it reaches a point of diminishing returns on the below-the-belt shots. Dare I say I was even bored with the constant below-the-belt trauma by the end of this slightly-overlong spectacle.
Obviously, this geek-show stuff isn’t for everybody. I don’t blame you one bit if your idea of fun doesn’t include finding out what happens when the guys drink pitchers of brightly-colored milk and then get on a high-speed carousel (spoiler alert: it’s exactly what you think). But those in the target audience will appreciate the camaraderie and commitment of the “Jackass” crew. It’s oddly comforting to know that you can still come to these guys for a certain brand of craziness – or at least as comforting as watching multiple bungee wedgies can be.
“Jackass Forever” is rated R for strong crude material and dangerous stunts, graphic nudity and language throughout. Its running time is 96 minutes.
Robert R. Garver is a graduate of the Cinema Studies program at New York University. His weekly movie reviews have been published since 2006.