‘Jackass Forever’ Review: A Balls Out Comedy (Literally)
After 120 years of cinema, it’s almost impossible to present something truly new to the moviegoing public. It’s all been done — or so it can seem until a movie like Jackass Forever comes along. When Johnny Knoxville proudly announces “We have 15 gallons of pig semen!” you know you are about to see something that has never been captured by a motion picture camera before.
That’s why I like Jackass: These men are pioneers. They were making viral videos before YouTube or social media existed, and they have never lost their adventurous spirit. Every Jackass movie ends with the song “If You’re Gonna Be Dumb, You Gotta Be Tough,” and the television series and four subsequent movies (plus a Bad Grandpa spinoff) are often dismissed as “dumb comedy.” If that’s an accurate description, though, then Knoxville and company are the smartest and most creative purveyors of dumb comedy of the last half century.
A Jackass gag is never simple or straight-forward. The humor unfolds in stages. Punchlines build one on top of the other. And to the performers’ perpetual misery, just when it looks like a skit is over, Knoxville and director Jeff Tremaine throw out a new twist — one that typically means pain for the performers and pleasure for the audience.
They regularly invent contraptions to bring seemingly impossible ideas to life. At one point in Jackass Forever, Knoxville chuckles that they have been working on perfecting one particular joke since 2006. 16 years later, they finally pulled it off. (I won’t spoil it, but it involves a naked Steve-O, an enormous tank of water, and an acetylene torch.) In more ways than one, Jackass Forever really might be the most balls out comedy ever produced.
Now entering their third decade of finding elaborate new ways to hit each other in the testicles (or sometimes to hit each other with their testicles), the original Jackass cast of fearless delinquents is now old enough to have fathered fearless delinquents of their own. (Knoxville, whose hair changes from jet black to natural gray over the course of the film, turned 50 last year.) Perhaps out of necessity then, Jackass Forever is the first installment of the saga to introduce a new batch of young cast members to perform (and suffer through) the franchise’s requisite falls, electrocutions, and blunt force trauma. Their ranks include Odd Future’s Jasper Dolphin (plus his perpetually frazzled father Dark Shark), a sweet-tempered daredevil named “Poopsies” (if he has a given name, no one uses it on camera), and the first ever female Jackass, Rachel Wolfson, whose stunts include getting “scorpion botox” on her face, which is exactly what you think it is.
I refuse to describe any of the film’s 30-odd sketches in detail, because part of the pleasure of Jackass is the element of surprise. It’s clear, however, that Covid hindered the production to some degree. While the prior Jackass shows and films all blended outlandish physical stunts with hidden camera pranks, Jackass Forever contains less than a handful of the latter. Accosting strangers on the street is probably a no go when it comes to Covid protocols.
Still, if Jackass Forever is limited in some ways, it also contains an outrageous number of laugh out loud moments. The team MVP this time might be “Danger Ehren” McGhehey, who was always a dependable presence in the previous Jackasses and here gets elevated to star status, possibly for no other reason than he’s the member of the old crew who remains the most willing to put his life on the line for the sake of a good laugh. A scene involving his repeated tests of a jockstrap brings new meaning to the phrase “painfully funny.”
Every Jackass movie has pushed the envelope further and further in terms of content, and added new formal tricks to the gang’s arsenal. Jackass 3 was one of few genuinely inventive 3D movies from the gimmick’s most recent boom, and Jackass Forever takes super slow-motion photography to glorious new heights (or depths, depending on your perspective). Just wait until you see how they use it with the pig semen. Don’t worry though; after the closing credits a disclaimer vows that “no animals were harmed” during the production. That’s Jackass for you. The animals aren’t harmed, but the actors sure as hell are.
-Longtime Jackass cast member Bam Margera, who was fired from the production and has continued to publicly feud with Tremaine and Knoxville in the press, is listed in the closing credits. But if he appears onscreen at any point, it was so briefly that I didn’t spot him.
-If you ever find yourself on the set of a Jackass movie, never, under any circumstances, go to the bathroom..
-My favorite running gag (no pun intended) in Jackass over the last 20 years is the fact that one of their main cameramen, Lance Bangs, has a weak stomach and is always on the verge of puking when the boys do something disgusting. In Jackass Forever, Lance gets sick at least twice, and his retching is even funnier because he’s doing it wearing a Covid mask. Poor Lance. He always makes me laugh.
-This movie has to set a record for the most full frontal male nudity in an R-rated movie. It has to. I cannot conceive of a fictional R-rated movie that could contain more onscreen penises than this. There are genitals everywhere, in practically every scene. No wonder Tremaine’s company is called Dickhouse Productions.