Picture this: a fart-powered paper party whistle sticking out of a guy’s bare ass and aimed straight at you. That’s 3D, baby. James Cameron never had the balls to try that in Avatar. And the Na’vi could only wish they invented “The Poo Cocktail Supreme,” in which Steve-O is strapped into a fully loaded PortaPotty and dropped from a bungee cord for a full-body shit shower.
All this awaits you in Jackass 3D, the third movie based on the TV series that started a franchise now celebrating a decade of gross-out glory. Sad to say, the 3D doesn’t add much to the party, except for Bam Margera peeing in your face and the “Heli-cockter” sequence in which Chris Pontius ties a remote-controlled toy chopper to his dick and lets it rip. Even sadder, the Jackass guys, goaded on again by fearless leader Johnny Knoxville and director Jeff Tremaine, don’t seem as eager to outrage as they once were.
Maybe age has mellowed them, that and a stench cloud of bad mainstream movies hanging over Knoxville (The Ringer, The Dukes of Hazzard), a heavily publicized stint in drug rehab for Steve-O and an epically bad marriage for Margera that earned its own TV show (MTV’s Bam’s Unholy Union). Or maybe, and it hurts to say this, time has just passed Jackass by.
These grinning bad boys, willing to dangle their dicks and shove anything up their asses, never pretended to be in it for anything more than a laugh. But this group of daredevils and former skateboarders — Spike Jonze was a founding Jackass father — always had a subversive agenda. By using physical comedy out of silent movies and offering up their own flesh, blood and sinew, they invented their own kind of performance art, an Olympics of body horror meant to force a visceral response. If you puked watching them puke, so much the better.
Stunts evoked the surrealist art of Salvador Dalí and the film experiments of Luis Buñuel (Jackass Number Two name-checks Buñuel’s Un Chien Andalou, which showed a woman’s eye being sliced by a razor) and David Cronenberg (look carefully at Scanners, Videodrome and Naked Lunch). Better yet, they evoked man’s need to climb mountains, jump off cliffs, swim with sharks and laugh at fear. Since Jackass started, reality shows (Fear Factor, Big Brother, Survivor, name your poison) took the art out of the game and the method out of the madness.
Jackass 3D ends on a note of resignation, with a clip reel — set to Weezer’s “Memories” — of the Jackass greatest hits. Knoxville and his boys seem to be saying goodbye. To which I can’t help thinking, fondly, it’s time.