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The Jackass Series

Jackass (October 25/02)

Jackass requires the viewer to enter the theater with an incredibly open mind. The content of the film (if it can even be considered a film) consists entirely of sketches involving the Jackass crew hurting themselves, usually quite badly. And, as was the case with the short-lived TV show of the same name, some of these vignettes are surprisingly funny - while others are just gross and/or tedious. If you've ever seen the show, you should know exactly what to expect out of the movie (ie you've been warned). Each bit is introduced by either Johnny Knoxville or one of his fellow jackasses (folks like Steve-O and Bam Margera, to name the two most prominent), with an often outrageous stunt to follow. Now, a lot of these skits have no purpose except to shock the viewer, such as when one of the crew inserts a toy car the last place one should insert a toy car. That wasn't really funny as much as it was cringe-worthy, designed to provoke the audience into reacting either with shocked laughter or disgusted groans. Personally, I found the latter to be applicable. Having said that, there are a number of moments that are laugh-out-loud funny - such as when the gang heads to a golf course and proceeds to blow an air horn every time someone makes a swing - that are designed to provoke laughter more often than most so-called comedies. And even with the stunts that are more disgusting than anything else (the moment in which Johnny Knoxville receives paper cuts in the webbings of his feet and hands certainly falls into that category), the reaction of the audience makes even the sub-par bits amusing enough. And that's why it's crucial, if you have any intention of ever watching Jackass, that you watch the film with a large-as-possible crowd. I'm not entirely sure how well Jackass will work on home video, with complete and utter silence during the more extreme sketches. Jackass clearly isn't for everyone; the film is targeted towards a very specific audience and makes no apologies for it. But if you're willing to take it for what it is, Jackass is certainly one of the funniest movies of the year (sporadically, anyway).

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Jackass Number Two (February 20/07)

Jackass Number Two, like its predecessor, offers up a whole host of sequences in which the Jackass crew - including Johnny Knoxville, Bam Margera, and Steve-O - offer up stunts of an increasingly dangerous and flat-out disgusting variety. And as was the case with the first Jackass, some of this stuff is admittedly quite funny - ie the sequence entitled "Rake Jump," which is exactly what it sounds like - and it's ultimately impossible to deny the comedic value of such interludes. That being said, there are more than a few moments that seem to exist only to sicken the viewer - with the aptly-named "Butt Chug" the most obvious example of this. There is consequently no overlooking the egregiously uneven tone, although - admittedly - it's fairly clear that the movie has been designed to be viewed in the company of as loud and boisterous a crowd as possible (their collective shock at even some of the film's less-than-successful stunts would probably elevate such moments). The bottom line is that Jackass Number Two will undoubtedly please fans of this ongoing series, while those who've never found Knoxville and company's anti-social antics funny will surely be left scratching their collective heads.

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Jackass 2.5 (January 22/08)

The Jackass series officially runs out of steam with this exceedingly weak entry, which - as is made abundantly clear throughout its hour-long running time - consists entirely of outtakes from the second installment. There's consequently little doubt that the movie primarily feels like a behind-the-scenes featurette that one would normally find on a contemporary DVD release, as filmmaker Jeff Tremaine and his crew of Jackasses (including Johnny Knoxville, Steve-O, and Wee Man) offer up a running commentary explaining why each and every one of these bits was axed from Jackass Number Two. As such, Jackass 2.5 has been infused with a hit-and-miss sort of vibe that's far more pronounced than ever before and it's ultimately impossible to deny that the majority of these sketches are just flat-out unwatchable. The lamentable emphasis on gross-out shenanigans surely plays a significant role in Jackass 2.5's inevitable downfall, as Johnny and the gang spend an inordinate amount of time cramming things into the last place one should cram things (ie one hapless goon decides to fly a kite without using his hands; you figure it out). And while there are a couple of genuinely funny interludes here and there - including a hilarious sequence in which a golf pro takes a swing from a tee placed strategically atop Bam Margera's crotch - Jackass 2.5 primarily comes off as a tedious, sporadically interminable exercise in needlessness.

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Jackass 3D (November 6/10)

Undoubtedly the nadir of the Jackass franchise, Jackass 3D offers up more of the same as Johnny Knoxville and his band of idiots subject themselves to a series of painful and flat-out disgusting stunts. The film gets off to a relatively watchable start, admittedly, as director Jeff Tremaine kicks the proceedings off with a fascinating slow-motion opening credits sequence and follows it up with several funny interludes (including a bit wherein an enormous hand smacks several of the Jackass crew). There inevitably reaches a point, however, at which the hit-and-miss nature of the sketches becomes far, far more miss than hit, with the increased emphasis on unusually unpleasant gags (ie the gang plays a game of "beehive tetherball," Steve-O, strapped into an airborne Porta-Potty, is covered in excrement, etc, etc) effectively transforming the film into a seriously tedious piece of work. The movie's many problems are exacerbated by its infuriating treatment of various animals, as Knoxville and his cohorts incorporate bulls, rams, and other hapless creatures into their aggressively idiotic shenanigans (ie dozens of snakes are tossed into a pit with Bam Margera). The final result is an endeavor that's as boring as it is irritating, and one ultimately can't help but hope that this marks the end of the Jackass crew's cinematic escapades.

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Jackass Presents Bad Grandpa (November 22/13)

The Jackass series takes a turn for the fictional with this decidedly underwhelming fifth entry, which follows Johnny Knoxville's raunchy title character, Irving Zisman, as he embarks on a road trip with a scrappy little boy named Billy (Jackson Nicoll). It's immediately clear that resident Jackass filmmaker Jeff Tremaine hasn't abandoned the low-rent sensibilities of this ongoing franchise, as Jackass Presents Bad Grandpa, having been shot on the cheap with bottom-of-the-barrel cameras, suffers from a palpably uncinematic feel that remains an annoyance (and a distraction) from beginning to end - with the improvisation-heavy narrative unable to explain away the film's substandard appearance (ie both Borat and Bruno were similarly spontaneous in their execution and those movies actually looked like movies). The arms-length atmosphere is perpetuated by a pervasive lack of laughs that is, to put it mildly, somewhat problematic, as Jackass Presents Bad Grandpa is rife with jokes and gags of a desperately unfunny (and persistently puerile) nature. (There are a few exceptions to this, of course, with the Little Miss Sunshine-inspired beauty pageant that closes the film standing as an obvious highlight.) It's clear, too, that the movie's episodic structure grows more and more exhausting as time progresses, as there's a lack of momentum here that is, when coupled with an emphasis on padded-out interludes, nothing short of disastrous. And although the road-trip storyline generally ensures that the film is, at the very least, watchable, Jackass Presents Bad Grandpa is ultimately just another misguided effort from Knoxville and his band of pranksters.

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About the DVD: Jackass 2.5 comes armed with a sizeable selection of supplemental materials, including a behind-the-scenes featurette, outtakes and deleted scenes, and more.
© David Nusair