The creators of Jackass Forever — that’d be head jackass Johnny Knoxville, longtime director of jackassery Jeff Tremaine, Spike “Patron Saint of Overall Jackassitude” Jonze and the rest of the battered, banged-up gang — have asked that critics, reviewers, pundits and wags not reveal the specifics of what you’ll see in their new (final?) collection of gonzo skaterat sadism. It’s a bit of a silly request, as words on a page can’t possibly describe the effect of witnessing firsthand what these DIY daredevils put themselves and others through over the course of 90 minutes. So we’re just gonna throw a few random phrases out there, and let your imagination do the rest.
The Vomitron. Boar-kake. Penis Kaiju. An Athletic Cup. The Human Ramp. The Quiet Game. Skateboard Guillotine. “Silence of the Lambs.”
These may not mean much to you now, past a knee-jerk “eww, gross” or possibly a confused “WTF…?” By the end of Jackass Forever, the fourth feature based on Knoxville & Co.’s hit MTV show, the mere mention of those things will cause you to reflexively gag, wince, quietly moan “Dear God, noooo” and automatically shield your groin. You don’t pay the ticket to not take the ride, and you don’t go to see this elite squad of professional knuckleheads to hear them read ASMR bedtime stories. You go because you want to witness Knoxville, and Steve “Steve-O” Glover, and Jason “Wee-Man” Acuna, and Chris “Oh, Look, He’s Naked Again” Pontius risk life, limb and the ability to reproduce again. You go because you know you’ll see more gaping assholes (literally) than a CPAC convention. You go because they want you to laugh — like, really doubled-over, tears-streaming-down-face, can’t-breath belly laugh — at their pain. And you most definitely will laugh. Likely a lot.
Forget it, Jake, it’s Jackass: Audiences have known for 20 years now what they get when the skull-and-crutches logo appears and the Minutemen’s “Corona” starts playing, and that’s grandiose pranks, gratuitous dick jokes, genuinely insane stunts and grievous bodily harm. If these sometimes brief, occasionally elaborate, often shit-caked Situationist blackout sketches are soundtracked to vintage punk rock and hip-hop deep cuts, all the better. Consistency is as key to the franchise’s appeal as the sense of real snuff-flick danger, and it’s what makes Jackass Forever fucking great. There’s no introduction of cutting wit here, no screwball banter, no gentle irony or attempt to mine the deep-rooted unease over the divisiveness of our current moment. This is, like its predecessors, pure blunt-instrument humor, tapping into something primal. We’re talking a crude, hard cinematic kick to the nuts.
The only thing that’s changed, really, is the make-up of the group and the passage of time. There are a few new faces among the older, weathered ones, notably Zach Holmes, a portly gentleman who seems extremely game for anything; a fellow nicknamed “Poopies”; Davon Lamar Wilson, aka Jasper (he brings along his dad “Darkshark,” an intimidating ex-con who hates spiders; you can guess what happens next); and stand-up Rachel Wolfson. They all confess they grew up on Jackass, which makes the hazing the old-timers gives them feel like they’ve gone through the looking glass. You’ve never seen anyone so dream-come-true ecstatic to ride down a steep, lubed sheet of plastic and tumble headfirst into a hard dirt patch, or put their tongue on a Tazer. Eric Andre, Tyler the Creator and Machine Gun Kelly all drop by to participate in the Jack-foolery. Just because they’re famous doesn’t mean they’re immune to becoming a punchline, either. Emphasis on punch.
Wolfson’s presence also reminds you that, despite the abundance of full frontal dude-ity that’s always been a key part of the Jackass DNA, there’s a distinct lack of toxicity around their broken-boned bro-ing out, at least onscreen. When a huge scorpion — don’t ask — starts to crawl down her chest, Pontius asks, “Do I have your permission to touch your breast and remove the scorpion?” “Consent! You have my consent!!!” she screams back. “It’s 2021,” he replies, and you’re not sure whether he means he’d better ask now, or that these overgrown adolescents have at least matured enough to the point where they recognize that some things are simply not, nor have ever been, cool.
Maturity is a loaded term when you’re talking about this franchise, however, which brings us back to the passage-of-time aspect. Getting gored and flipped by a raging bull when you’re a twentysomething skatepunk making viral videos and trying to crack up your buddies — and yes, releasing that don’t-try-this-at-home footage under the banner of a major media corporation and becoming a celebrity millionaire in the process — is comedy. Doing that same thing when you’re a middle-aged guy in his fifties with a family? Now you’re potentially courting tragedy. Jackass is no country for old men, unless it involves the Irving Zisman prosthetics. So seeing a gray-haired Knoxville walk into that bullring, as well as the O.G. guys suffering the slings and arrows of outrageous testicular damage long past an expiration date, introduces a whole other level of concern into the proceedings.
Some crew members are notably AWOL here; a tasteful credits shout-out to the late Ryan Dunn adds a sting of melancholy. Even if they are still 13-year-old boys at heart, they can’t do this for much longer. It’s partially why they brought fresh blood into the mix, but more importantly, it’s also why you find yourself so excited to see this longtime group of friends act like total and utter idiots. Forget the title: Jackass can’t go on forever. Just enjoy one last chance to see these beautiful fuck-ups do what they do best before they limp and hobble off into the sunset.