4 out of 5 stars

It’s been two decades since the words “I’m Johnny Knoxville, and welcome to Jackass” were first uttered onscreen. Largely inspired by 1990s skateboarding videos, Jackass was born from Johnny Knoxville’s experiments using self-defence equipment on himself for Jeff Tremaine’s Big Brother magazine. The premise of Jackass was simple: it followed a series of outrageous stunts centred around a group of unruly pranksters and amateur stuntmen. Every gruesome concussion, bloody laceration, and burst of vomit was a declarative badge of honour. After three successful seasons on MTV, it inspired an era of teenagers to revel in the gleeful debauchery. Paramount Pictures capitalised on its success and provided the crew with a $5M budget and a license to up the ante. Accompanied by producer-director Spike Jonze (Beastie Boys Story), the gang began filming a feature-length version of the show for filmgoers.

Two years after Jackass became a controversial and cultural phenomenon on television, Jackass: The Movie (2002) defied expectations and grossed $80M at the box office. Originally, Jackass: The Movie was supposed to be a final farewell for the gang, but its surprise success paved the way for a follow-up, Jackass Number Two (2006). Then, after an extensive break, the group returned to capitalise on Hollywood’s latest 3D fad with Jackass 3D (2010). And now, over a decade later, the wayward individuals have returned once more—older but none the wiser—for a fourth outing. While inviting a new generation of participants, Jackass Forever sees the gang again push the boundaries of good taste. Loaded with their unique brand of hilarious and outrageous exploits, it’s the perfect escapism cinema following a two-year pandemic.

In its own unique way, Tremaine’s direction seems more artful and cinematic than the previous instalments. Although Jackass Forever proudly maintains its idiosyncratic homemade aesthetic, a frequently overlooked element of the franchise is the technical artistry. Jackass Number Two homaged La Cage aux Folles (1978) with a magnificent performance of “The Best of Times”, while Jackass 3D was one of few genuinely inventive 3D movies during the post-Avatar (2009) boom in the technology. This time, Jackass Forever utilises super slow-motion technology better than most Hollywood blockbusters, catching every detail of grievous bodily carnage. Elsewhere, Jonze pays ridiculous homage to Japanese kaiju during an incredible opening set-piece. It all stands as a testament to Tremaine’s filmmaking, as he continues to keep everything fresh and invigorating when viral TikTok videos threaten to make the franchise appear outdated. 

The gang’s last outing suggested they were ready to hang up their beaten Chuck Taylors, but charming Johnny Knoxville is back as the the ringmaster of this chaotic circus. Accompanying him for various physical challenges that borderline psychological torture are Steve-O, Wee Man, Chris Pontius, Dave Englund, Ehren McGehey, and Preston Lacy. A lot has happened since the transcendently perverse Jackass 3D, and fans will notice several key personalities are missing. Bam Margera was removed from the production due to his personal demons and an alleged violation of his contract clause, while the untimely passing of Ryan Dunn casts an inescapable shadow over proceedings. It’s difficult not to get upset about Dunn’s absence because he had such a likeable and playful personality. However, his tragedy allows the gang to encapsulate the true meaning of living in the moment. They straddle the line between bravery and stupidity for our risible amusement because life is ultimately shorter than we think.  

Looming silently in the background of Jackass Forever is the limitations surrounding the original cast’s middle-aged bodies. Although the performers throw themselves into every stunt with enthusiasm, their exploits carry even more serious ramifications than previously. This extra element of danger also brings a heightened level of intensity to each performance. Thankfully, the visibly older and more fragile faces allow a new generation of cast members to inject some diversity into their shenanigans. Having grown up watching Jackass, this new blood’s willing to prove their commitment to the cause. Zach Holmes is an impervious juggernaut who’ll fearlessly jump into anything feet first; Sean “Poopies” McInerney blissfully takes a snake bite to the face like a trooper; the sadly underused Rachel Wolfson leaves the biggest impression as the crew’s first female member. Her trenchant satire during the “Scorpion Botox” stunt allows her to fit into the crew effortlessly. The new additions may be a thinly veiled attempt to keep the brand relevant for future generations, sure, but they all have distinct personalities and feel like they’ve always been a part of the team. 

Although the veterans may be showing their age, it doesn’t prevent them from participating in some outrageously funny stunts. Even if many concepts have been regurgitated from previous instalments, almost every set-piece proves to be memorable and fun. Consistency is key to the franchise’s appeal and Jackass Forever showcases the usual collection of battered testicles, vicious animals, and electric shocks. “The Silence of the Lambs” is a particular highlight in which Knoxville invites several cast members into an unassuming room filled with a deadly rattlesnake. As the unsuspecting victims attempt to leave, the lights turn off and the door slams shut. Unaware that the rattlesnakes have been removed, they blindly stumble around in terror while being tasered and standing on mousetraps. Another highlight is when Ehren McGehey tests the defensive power of an athletic cup during “The Cup Test”, and his groin is set upon by a UFC heavyweight, a softball pitcher, a hockey player, and a pogo stick. The aftermath of his destroyed genitals is arguably one of the franchise’s most shocking moments.

While Jackass Forever doesn’t match the audacious heights of its predecessors, there’s something oddly wholesome about seeing a group of friends reunite after a decade—with their chemistry fully intact. Jackass has always been propelled by the jovial desire of performing some genuinely outrageous stunts and playing mischievous pranks on a group of friends. The freewheeling spirit as they willingly put themselves through both physical and psychological trauma enlivened the franchise. Even after Knoxville’s hospitalised with a well-publicised brain hemorrhage, he’s welcomed back with a cheer for a stunt gamely undertaken. There’s a genuine kinship that makes it permissible to laugh alongside them as they break every bone in their body. It’s an oddly sentimental feeling to recognise amidst the death-defying stunts, but that’s what makes Jackass so special. They’re so comfortable around each other that they’re willing to mutilate and humiliate themselves for everyone’s deranged amusement. Although their bodies may be beaten and broken, their adventurous spirit and genuine camaraderie remain intact. 

Ultimately, Jackass Forever is hugely entertaining and captures the ardent spirit and deranged inanity that has long defined the franchise. Although filming during a pandemic reveals some limitations with the production’s imagination, there isn’t a dull moment during its 90-minute runtime. Whether it’s Knoxville shooting himself out of a cannon armed with feathered wings, or Steve-O sitting on an exploding portable toilet, Jeff Tremaine captures the shenanigans with such precision. Jackass Forever isn’t going to turn the most ardent detractors into fans, of course, as its combination of physical comedy and reckless exploits taps into a vein of nihilistic humour that’s never been accepted by mainstream culture. However, it’s a healthy form of sadomasochism that’s built on a simple philosophy: “if you’re gonna be dumb, you gotta be tough.”

USA | 2022 | 96 MINUTES | 1:85:1 | COLOUR | ENGLISH

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Cast & Crew

director: Jeff Tremaine.
writers: Jeff Tremaine, Spike Jonze, Johnny Knoxville, Steve-O, Chris Pontius, Rachel Wolfson, Jason “Wee Man” Acuna, Ehren McGhehey, Dave England, Preston Lacy, Sean McInerney, Eric André, Dereck Beckless, Colton Dunn, Nick Kriess, Knate Lee, Bam Margera, Sarah Sherman & Andrew Weinberg (based on ‘Jackass’, created by Jeff Tremaine, Spike Jonze & Johnny Knoxville.)
starring: Johnny Knoxville, Steve-O, Chris Pontius, Rachel Wolfson, Jason “Wee Man” Acuna, Ehren McGhehey, Dave England, Preston Lacy & Sean McInerney.