Three Dimensions of Gross-out Humor

Johnny Knoxville and team will make you laugh and gag

What began as a juvenile MTV series in 2000 has gone on to inspire laughter and groans around the world via the Jackass franchise’s progressively more hilarious movies. Although in Jackass 3D director Jeff Tremaine doesn’t take full advantage of the third film’s 3-D effects, he does allow some window-breaking spectacle to deliver objects—a projectile dildo, for example—into the audience.

More prominent than in the first two Jackass films, male genitals take the brunt of many a masochistic skit. Still, a remote-controlled helicopter tied to a guy’s pecker is not quite as guffaw-inducing as watching a guy get his tooth pulled out by a Lamborghini. As with the first two films, a carnival atmosphere of perverse male-centric performance art comedy pervades. There’s a refreshing joy that comes from watching two idiots play tee ball with a nest of bees.

The Jackass crew of modern slacker-clowns has become household names. Merry pranksters Johnny Knoxville, Steve-O and Bam Margera are familiar faces, a dysfunctional family of sorts. Their unique brand of perilous comedy effortlessly combines slapstick, Grand Guignol, vaudeville, circus sideshow and anti-authoritarian irreverence. For example, there’s a great scene involving a powder-blue-tuxedo-clad Knoxville, a jet ski and a backyard lap pool. Toga-wearing bystanders chant the memorable demand from John Belushi’s Animal House (“Toga! Toga! Toga!”) as Knoxville speeds toward a ramp that will send him flying over a hedge.

There’s considerably more scatological humor going on here than in the latest Disney-animated feature. It goes along with the unpredictable territory of infantile physical exploration that might, for example, place a trumpet next to the anus of a particularly flatulent visitor to the Jackass set. A blow-dart gun aimed at a balloon stuck between Steve-O’s butt cheeks is also an option for flatus-propulsion. Cameo appearances by the likes of director Spike Jonze, actor Seann William Scott and skateboard legend Tony Hawk lend an air of endorsement to the film’s unrelenting list of childish shenanigans that include our anti-heroes getting run down by buffalo, ram and an especially enthusiastic dog.

Watching people’s faces go all slow-motion-rubbery when they get blindsided with a boxing glove is a kind of humor that works no matter how many times you’ve seen it. What carries the compilation of pranks is the go-for-it attitude of the performers. They have the essential ability to get up and brush it off after taking gut-wrenching spills or being dumped in an 11-foot-deep basement with a hundred live snakes. There’s a certain Zen-like quality at play in the realism of stunts, as when Steve-O goes on a bungee ride inside a poop-filled port-a-potty. Members of the crew freely barf before, during and after the spectacularly disgusting event.

It’s questionable as to whether or not you’ll even crack a snicker during the latest Hollywood romantic comedy. But it’s a guarantee that you’ll get hit with some very heavy funny-bone provocations here. Who cares that it’s not high or even middlebrow humor. There’s every bit as much danger here as with a Buster Keaton movie, and much more impetus to roll around on the floor laughing. It sure beats the heck out of any other comedy currently playing at the local multiplex.

Jackass 3D (R) ★★★★☆

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