by Rob Gonsalves
This certainly has been the year of transgressive cinema, what with "The Human Centipede," "Enter the Void," and more and more Americans finding their way to the still-unreleased-in-America "A Serbian Film." To that list we can add "Jackass 3D," which peppers 3,000 screens nationwide with more things you can't unsee, stunts no sane person would try, and less-than-precious bodily fluids.I have a soft spot for Johnny Knoxville and his few, his happy few, his band of morons. Every time Knoxville has announced a new Jackass movie, he makes a point of assuring us that everyone's back — Steve-O, Bam Margera, Wee Man, the whole sick crew. That's because the group dynamic — affectionately vicious, spurring each other on to greater, stupider offenses to good taste and health — is at least as important as the fuckheaded stuff they do; that's what separates them from the wannabe-jackasses who put their testicle-bashing and volleyball-to-the-face bits all over YouTube. Renegade filmmaker Spike Jonze has been a part of the Jackass saga for a reason; he sees the surreal performance-art aspect of it, the long (if perverse) history behind it. At their best, the Jackass crew are like Hunter S. Thompson staging Project Mayhem at Delta House, or the Vienna Aktionists retooled for the skater culture.
"The usual gang of idiots."
James Cameron recently called Piranha 3D onto the carpet for cheapening his beloved format, and I shudder to think what he'd say about Jackass 3D (maybe he'd just laugh his ass off). In truth, the extra dimension only serves to create a mood of bemused dread: what kind of foul shit (literally) are they going to send spurting into the audience? The foul shit, when it comes, may fly in three dimensions but ultimately hits the fourth wall, the camera lens. I suppose some of those shots could've been CGI'ed up to send gobs of rancid offal right into our faces, but I'm sort of glad they weren't — not because I'm squeamish but because it would've violated the group's this-isn't-faked credo and ethos.
There's been a lot of press, connected to the recent news about gay kids being bullied, over whether "That's so gay" is homophobic or just lazy. I seek only accurate language when I say that Jackass 3D, at times, is so gay. It always has been, really; as in Fight Club, there's something unmistakably homoerotic about nearly-naked men sharing physical extremes (This! Is! Spaaarta!), and the guys don't shy away from it — they giggle and give in, to paraphrase Robert Altman, and I'm certain this is the only time Altman will be name-checked in a review of a Jackass movie. Anyway, penises flop around, asses are exposed and manhandled and bitten by a hog, sweat is collected in a glass and chugged down — sounds like a festive night at the Anvil.
My heart went out to poor Lance Bangs, a music-video director and documentarian who has a great deal of trouble keeping his lunch down while filming some of the more unspeakable stunts; at one point he yaks onto his own camera, an image Knoxville recognizes as so spontaneously, iconically perfect he holds the camera aloft in a mix of disgust and pride. Every so often, a routine will transcend merely showing us something we've never seen before and inscribe itself onto the same coin as Buñuel or Günter Brus; the bit with the ass volcano springs immediately, violently, to mind. At another point, Knoxville turns himself into background art to foil the attentions of a bull, like a Looney Tunes character or a human trompe-l'œil. And the climax, featuring a porta-potty filled with dog shit and a Steve-O filled with dread (he doesn't even have the solace, or the excuse, of being drunk for the occasion), is foreshadowed by blue paint-bombs going off inside other porta-potties, turning various Jackasses into visual references to another long-running performance-art collective, the Blue Man Group. Also, someone farts into a trumpet.Many have said, and I concur, that the boys are getting too old for this shit. A man's leg trembling after a donkey has kicked it symbolizes the pitfalls and limitations of this sort of entertainment. It may be time to pass the shit-smeared torch; a group has already grabbed for it, and — yes — they're female (Google up "Rad Girls" if you're not familiar). The end-credits mix of childhood photos and footage of Knoxville & company in the flower of youth seems to suggest a fond farewell. Adios, au revoir, auf wiener-pain.
link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=20165&reviewer=416
originally posted: 10/17/10 12:26:31