by Richard von Busack
Margaret Atwood said “baseball is what America was, football is what America is,” and it’s clear that Jackass 3D is what America is becoming. Undeniably visceral entertainment that it is, it’s a slightly more deluxe version of frontier humor; one of the stuntmen taunting an ornery ram with blasts from a sousaphone is carrying on the old Mark Twain “His Grandfather’s Old Ram”… the difference is that the ram in the Twain tale is left frozen in space, and this one connects about a dozen times. The tormenter’s yelp to the beast as he gets severely butted—“Why?”—is easily the most hilarious thing in the movie.
Genial but horrible ringleader Johnny Knoxville is to a rodeo clown what a wealthy rock-star is to a Delta blues picker: someone rewarded disproportionately for building on a rich tradition. Some of the slapstick horrors here are true-life versions of favorites from Keystone comedies: the guy in the gorilla suit, the dog that goes straight for the seat of the pants, the exploding bag of flour, the swarm of bees, the dentist tying a string to a sufferer’s tooth, the irritable donkey and the hilarious dwarf. Of the latter, the small but perfectly formed Jason “WeeMan” Acuna stars in a rather good prank of a bar disrupted by an itty-bitty brawl.
Some of the stuff, like a sap dressing like a duck and being launched flying into a fusillade of paintballs gets a little too close to the Roman Empire’s method of handling dissidents. A couple of the bits here are lunch-avulsers. Preston Lacy’s “Sweat Suit Cocktail” stunt was the closest I’ve come to vomiting in a movie theater during my 30 year career as a film critic, if you don’t count watching Angelina Jolie in Girl, Interrupted. The sewer-humor is universally popular but not as personally enthralling, even when it goes as insanely baroque as attaching a loaded Port-a-Potty into a carnival bungee slingshot. I was more taken by a scene of Knoxville and his insane confederates frolicking around the exhaust of a jet plane, tossing a football into it and watching it fly about a mile…and then getting someone suited up and helmeted to receive the next jet-powered pass. The 3D helps one get most of the popular bodily fluids right in the face if that’s your idea of fun; Jackass 3D’s premier at Grauman’s Chinese Theater is some kind of sign of the times.