Johnny Knoxville, Steve-O and the gang return to the big screen for lewd, crude antics with a surprisingly sweet centre.
Sometimes, when I can’t sleep, I think about what will remain of me when I die. What will people remember? What will people say? What images, or videos, or words from my three decades shuffling around the third rock from the sun will endure beyond my passing?
There’s a line from Chuck Palahniuk’s 2003 novel ‘Diary’ that I think of: “We all die. The goal isn’t to live forever, the goal is to create something that will.” Of course, it’s impossible to predict what our ancestors will one day remember from our culture. Maybe the heat death of the universe will render all of this a moot point before it really matters. But Jackass – that gross-out MTV mainstay that has endured for two decades – implies a certain longevity with the cheeky title of its fourth feature film. Jackass Forever. Who am I to disagree?
It has been ten years since Jackass 3D pushed the limits of camera technology to poke slo-mo dildos into the face to the masses. Now, the gang are back for another 93 minutes of carnage. Older, greyer, but not necessarily wiser, Johnny Knoxville, Steve-O, Chris Pontius and their merry band of co-conspirators return, along with some fresh new faces – Zach Holmes, Jasper Dolphin, Sean “Poopies” McInerney, Erik Manaka and Rachel Wolfson.
The pranks are as lewd and crude as ever, the cast are nude, yet against all reason and sense, there’s something incredibly wholesome about the entire affair. After filming shut down during the pandemic (and then again a few times due to cast injury), the magic is still very much intact: there’s no sense of going through the motions with these rascals. They look as stoked to be causing mischief as they were in their MTV glory days.
An often-overlooked element of the Jackass films is their technical artistry. Here slow-motion technology is utilised better than in most modern blockbusters, and camera angles catch the granular detail of bodily carnage. They might be recording scorpion stings or grown men getting hit in the balls with hockey pucks, but the team behind Jackass (director Jeff Tremaine, cinematographer Dimitry Elyashkevich and a camera crew that includes Lance Bangs, Chris “Raab Himself” and Rick Kosick) put a lot of thought and attention into the cinematic experience. Regardless of the mileage one gets out of bodily fluids and pain endurance, there’s no accusing the creative team of slacking off.
This seems most evident in the set-up of stunts. From the film’s Godzilla-themed opening sequence to an incredible prank entitled ‘Silence of the Lambs’, the cast are as foolhardy as ever, and their new friends are just as game for a laugh. The MVPs include Jasper’s dad, Compston “Darkshark” Wilson, described as an ex-con, ex-gangbanger, who has a fear of insects, and a cameo from musician Tyler the Creator who gives Jackass Forever one of its greatest lines of dialogue.