It seems culture has been relentlessly recycled in the entertainment industry as corporations realize nostalgia is their best commodity. New film projects in theaters are hard to find as the massive amount of content available to consumers makes creators play it safe. As a result — aided by the ongoing pandemic — going to theaters is a dying pastime. Luckily, a defining pop culture phenomenon of the early 2000s has returned to show the world what it means to be truly without culture or class.
The Jackass crew is back after three feature films and a massively popular TV show with “Jackass Forever,” released exclusively to theaters Feb. 4. While a few members are missing, stuntmen and comedians Johnny Knoxville, Steve-O and some new faces teamed up with director Jeff Tramaine to once again subject the American public to absolutely revolting humor, and it should not be missed by those willing to see it.
Following in the footsteps of previous “Jackass” installments, the new film is an acquired taste. In many regards, there is nothing artistically compelling about anything “Jackass” related. The gags seem ghost-written by graffiti from a high school bathroom. However, everyone involved with the production not only knows this, but loves it.
The most redeeming quality of the humor has been its insistence on being lowbrow and devoid of any substance. The gags have always been at their best when they challenge legality and basic human decency, and “Jackass Forever” delivers on both.
The film follows the familiar structure of featuring multiple distinct stunts performed by the crew or guests, often going further in intensity than previous Jackass films. From sending legendary skater Aaron “Jaws” Homoki flying into the air with a spinning hammock, performing a “scorpion botox” on someone’s lips with a live scorpion and even drinking pig semen, the film does not hold back. It is the same old “Jackass,” just as wild, punk rock and bold as ever, proving its own brand of stupid has not yet gone out of style.
Shock, gross-out and cringe humor are not uncommon, but the Jackass crew have been at it for decades. Their charisma and chemistry make the often traumatizing stunts light enough to watch because of everyone’s enthusiastic involvement. Considering how far Steve-O has come from a horrifying drug addiction — MTV’s “Steve-O Demise and Rise” remains a truly impactful documentary on this subject — it is inspiring to see him have so much fun.
While many films turn sterile to avoid turning audiences away, “Jackass” is unflinching in its quest to challenge the limits of the human stomach. Even the camera crew and director can be seen vomiting during multiple scenes. It is refreshing to see a film genuinely invested in creating a strong audience reaction and doing whatever possible to accomplish it.
Even though the content of “Jackass” has not matured, the original Jackass crew has — luckily not their sense of humor, but many members are approaching 50 and can no longer endure the physical torture they once used to. The making of the film resulted in multiple hospitalizations and with Johnny Knoxville receiving brain damage from a bull attack, causing him to reflect on his career and quit doing life-threatening stunts. Luckily, the franchise brought in fresh new members to put their bodies on the line when others could not.
The new inclusions and guest appearances not only help create better gags, but reflect the cultural impact of “Jackass.” Tyler, The Creator makes an appearance for a couple scenes. His Odd Future co-member, Jasper Dolphin, officially joined the Jackass crew — an insightful choice considering the direct influence “Jackass” had on the creation of the show “Loiter Squad” by Odd Future. The appearance of Eric Andre is another highlight and representative of a new comedian who grew up on “Jackass” now taking part in it.
Likely because the series has been so significant in American popular culture, the best quality of “Jackass Forever” is the unrivaled community experience it offers in a crowded theater. It may be hard to watch a snapping turtle being slowly pushed towards a man’s exposed genitals — and this is just the opening scene — but it becomes undoubtedly fun when an entire theater experiences the terror together.
The film may be childish and idiotic, but it is at least unique in a landcape of films not willing to embrace raw stupidity. It may not be art, but it certainly can be a guilty pleasure for those willing to give it a shot. See it with others before it leaves theaters, but just don’t go for a date on Valentine’s Day.