DIR: Jeff Tremaine • WRI: Preston Lacy • PRO: Spike Jonze, Johnny Knoxville. Jeff Tremaine • DOP: Lance Bangs, Dimitry Elyashkevich, Rick Kosick • ED: Seth Casriel, Matt Kosinski, Matt Probst • DES: James Peter Blackmon , Seth Meisterman • CAST: Johnny Knoxville, Steve-O, Bam Margera, Ryan Dunn
The TV series Jackass was spoken about it hushed tones when I was in school. If you were lucky enough to get MTV, it was said, then you would have access to hours of grown men doing insanely stupid and dangerous things for no reason other than they were funny. For better or worse, it would be one of the generations’ defining (pre-YouTube) cultural moments. We may not have had punk, or the civil rights movement, but we did have a show in which a man repeatedly took a paintball to the crotch.
Amid the endless tabloid outrage and claims that the show further represented the decline of western civilization something was lost – Jackass was often incredibly funny, and not always necessarily in a stupid way. There was a subversive edge and creativity to many of the stunts, something that the many imitators and braindead, happy-slapping teens missed entirely. Jackass 3D – which also features Spike Jonze and cult singer-songwriter Will Oldham – is possibly the finest example of this strange, borderline Avante-Garde art form yet.
To say that Jackass 3D is little more than the show blown up to three dimensions would be a fair assessment. Shot in full 3D (which automatically makes it more worthy of the title than a lot of recent Hollywood product), the film also uses the same Phantom slow-motion camera that Lars Von Trier used for Antichrist (!), which allows for some truly stunning footage of the carnage in incredible detail at 1,000 frames per second. Although it was a decision almost certainly motivated by the fact that the film’s target audience would likely download it otherwise, the use of 3D technology is actually a smart artistic move as well. It adds variety to the film’s visuals, it’s used effectively and economically, and it happily revels in the gimmicky nature of the technology.
There is stuff here that would make even the most hardened viewer feel ill (man in overflowing portable toilet shot into the air on a bungee rope), and even the most uptight cynic guffaw loudly (unsuspecting man carrying soup hit by giant paper maché high five). Weirdly, though, there’s also strange underlying poignancy. It’s over ten years since Jackass was first shown, and the cast have had a mixture of success (Johnny Knoxville is a Hollywood star now) and failure (Steve-O is a recovering alcoholic; in one of the movies’ queasier moments, he drinks a cup of sweat, only for someone to remark that it’s the first cocktail he’s had in two years). Despite the fact that they are neither big nor clever, there is a sense that these men have genuine, borderline homoerotic love for each other, and a nostalgia that comes with watching them relive their youth. Overall then, Jackass 3D is weirdly moving, amusingly anti-establishment and technologically impressive – not bad for a film in which a man urinates into a jet engine.