Directed by Jeff Tremaine | Written by Jason “Wee Man” Acuña, Eric André, and Derrick Beckles | 96 min | ▲▲▲△△ | Netflix
My personal history with the Jackass franchise goes back about 20 years when a friend recommended the series, saying it was the funniest thing he’d ever seen. It took some convincing: the trailers of grown men putting themselves in harms way for giggles seemed like the activities of bro-dude fratboys — not my scene.
But when finally I was, ahem, exposed to their particular brand of self-abuse I had to admit I came around to my pal’s perspective. It was damn funny.
The veteran performers are Johnny Knoxville, Steve-O, Jason “Wee Man” Acuña, and Danger Ehren McGhehey, amongst others, who come up with outrageous stunts — frequently involving putting portions of their anatomy in serious danger. Sometimes it involves close contact with dangerous animals, from bears to snakes to enraged bulls. Sometimes it’s about unexpected electrocution. A lot of time it’s about being hit in the balls.
That formula hasn’t changed since the series, various spin-offs, and three feature films or the 10 years that preceded this return to the franchise. These guys don’t seem to have matured at all, and I’d suggest there’s comfort in that. Some things don’t change, especially the most pointedly juvenile.
And it’s the pride in that relentless juvenilia that does the heart some good. What’s always worked with the Jackass crew is the sense these guys remember with incredible clarity what it was like to be 10 years old and daring your friends or their little brothers to do something really stupid, or maybe pranking them just to see the look in their faces. That wonderful childishness is kind of appealing in a way I’m almost embarrassed to admit.
But, even as I’m chortling along while these guys — in various states of undress, there’s more male nudity here than in a dozen Adam Driver or Viggo Mortensen movies — tumble down a greased slide into gravel and dirt, I feel like I’m losing IQ points. That feeling is especially potent when they do something that’s not just dangerous, but gross. I wouldn’t have missed a scene where a dude loses control of his bowels, for instance.
And the bro-y aspects of all this goofiness still stink up the good time. Credit to them they’ve (finally) invited a woman as part of their gang of idiots’ new blood: Rachel Wolfson is her name — she has a bad moment or two here with a scorpion — and she joins other new chumps Sean “Poopies” McInerney, Zach Holmes, and Eric Manaka.
It has been a long while since I’ve watched something that has pulled laughter out of me for almost all of the picture’s running time. So even though I’m maybe dumber now than I was when I went into Jackass Forever, it’s easy to forgive when I came out of the theatre so friggin’ giddy.