Jackass Forever. MA, 96 minutes. Four stars
The opening sequence of Jackass Forever is one you'll never forget. It's a piece of filmmaking so bold, so audacious and so unbelievably, sublimely stupid that it will no doubt etch itself on your brain for years to come.
I don't dare describe it in print, because everyone deserves to discover it for themselves, but also because this publication wouldn't be able to print the details. Let's just say it's Godzilla-inspired, with a uniquely Jackass twist.
Sublimely stupid is what the Jackass crew does best, and their formula (thankfully) hasn't wavered since the prank/stunt reality comedy show debuted on MTV in October 2000, and evolved into a film franchise spanning two decades. There's something comforting about the phrase, "I'm Johnny Knoxville, welcome to Jackass," even, no, especially, if what comes next is a display of pure human agony and humiliation.
Knoxville, our devilish ringleader, sports his signature Wayfarers and coif, which he allows to go silver at some point in the filming, which is a sort of sweet display of how long he and the crew have been up to these antics, and how long we've been watching them.
He is a circus ringmaster, a rodeo clown and a sadistic game show host, but always, his most important role is the one of big brother. While he freely dispenses surprise Taser attacks, he's always the first to offer a high-five, the one laughing the loudest. Though Jackass Forever puts the cast members' soft tissues through a pummeling like never before, it's not the violence that puts a smile on your face, but the riotous back-slapping that follows the screams of agony after each pratfall, prank and punch.
Knoxville and his original compatriots, Chris Pontius, Steve-O, Danger Ehren, Dave England, Preston Lacy and Jason "Wee Man" Acua are joined by a new crew of masochistic pranksters, including YouTube stunt-ster Zach Holmes, comedian Rachel Wolfson, Eric Manaka (who appeared in Knoxville's Action Point), Odd Future member Jasper (plus his father, Dark Shark) and pro surfer Sean "Poopies" McInerney.
The newbies seem astonished to be included in something they grew up watching, and that exhilaration and awe seems to power them through each bone-crunching, stomach-churning stunt.
The OGs pony up to the plate for their share of pain and humiliation too. Knoxville ends up fairly battered and broken, Steve-O subjects himself to stunts this shy of a cavity search and Danger Ehren takes the classic cup test to new levels.
This film, directed as always by Jeff Tremaine, is very much focused on the members of this crew, who subject their nether regions to astonishing injury. There's never, ever been full frontal like this before, in fact, the word frontal isn't even an apt descriptor for this display.
On the surface, Jackass embodies a "boys will be boys" silliness in their skate park shenanigans, but these bros have always had a subversive side, refusing to shy away from the naked (literally) homoeroticism of their content. The violence enables an easy physical intimacy, the fear and pain a demonstration of vulnerability.
In a world of hard-bodied superheroes, there's something so refreshing about a man attempting a very stupid feat and expressing just how much it hurts. This celebration of a brotherhood of battered bodies feels like both a satire of, and a tearing down of toxic masculinity. As the crew batters and flattens their junk, or covers it in bees, this literal destruction of the phallus could also be a symbolic one. It's not feminist (and certainly because Wolfson doesn't get enough to do) but they are certainly doing something interesting with their manhood. Either way, we hope they have a great urologist on call.
Jackass Forever transcends the body horror to achieve a kind of nirvana: the crew invites themselves to laugh so they don't cry, and asks the audience to do the same. It's a reminder that pain is temporary, but friendship is forever.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.