'Jackass 3D': Tomfoolery and camaraderie in a whole new dimension

Johnny Knoxville in a scene from "Jackass 3D."
Johnny Knoxville in a scene from "Jackass 3D." (AP)
By Dan Kois
Special to The Washington Post
Saturday, October 16, 2010

I know what you're thinking: Am I highbrow enough to see "Jackass 3D"?

No doubt you read about this challenging art film's premiere this week at New York's Museum of Modern Art, where curators praised the film's revolt against phallocentrism and its use of the body as canvas for acts of transgressive violence. But have no fear: Indebted as director Jeff Tremaine is to Artaud's Theater of Cruelty and the works of Luis Buñuel, "Jackass 3D" remains surprisingly accessible.

Would you like to see a midget Super-Glued to a fat guy's stomach? Or two pantsless men playing tetherball with a hive full of 50,000 bees?

Would you like to see all that in three glorious dimensions? Then "Jackass" is for you.

In this third film, Johnny Knoxville and his merry band of idiots once again subject one another to a series of stunts and pranks meant to test the limits of the human body (and the human gag reflex). By now, the guys' apprehension when faced with their own handiwork offers as much pleasure to the audience as the stunts themselves.

We're presented with a tableau -- Steve-O, say, in his underpants, while another jackass waits with baseball and bat -- and the audience squirms in delicious anticipation, even as a terrified Steve-O bemoans the stupid thing he's agreed to do. They introduce the stunt -- "I'm Steve-O, and this is 'Tee Ball' " -- and then it happens, faster and more awful than we could have imagined, and the joyous release of tension in the audience is astonishing to behold.

Then we get to see it again, in slow motion. Which is awesome.

But "Jackass" is also a touching ode to male friendship at its most primal. That's not to say that the things the boys do to one another aren't mean -- it's hard to think of any other way to describe, say, the act of urinating on someone -- but the atmosphere in the world of "Jackass" is one of infectious bonhomie.

Sure, you might be Tazed at any moment, or the Porta-John might explode while you're in it. So perilous is this world that, even in thoughtful repose, the jackasses assume a position of defense, protecting their gonads against the punch that will surely come.

But the "Jackass" set is also a place where, when that fist -- or that football, or that buffalo -- finally lands squarely in your crotch, your friends will gather around your writhing body, ask (through helpless laughter) if you're okay, and help you to your feet. The jackasses are comrades, and "Jackass" is devoted to camaraderie -- to the willingness to try anything once, out of a genuine curiosity about how the world works. What happens if you stand in front of a jet engine? What if an ordinary guy gets hit by an NFL linebacker? Can you play baseball with your penis?

The jackasses are joined by guests both apropos (likely breakout star Will the Farter) and unexpectedly inspired (indie-folk stalwart Will Oldham). Producer Spike Jonze shows up, as do the interchangeably Nordic stars of the Finnish stunt show "The Dudesons."

"You ever get scared?" one nervous Dudeson asks his hero, Johnny Knoxville, as the two sit perched atop a 60-foot fir tree, while men wield chain saws below. "Yeah," Knoxville replies with a shrug, before they both plummet, shrieking, to earth.

Then we get to see it again, in slow motion.

Jackass 3D


(90 minutes, at area theaters) is rated R for nudity, language and extremely crude and dangerous stunts.

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