It’s a weird feeling to be nostalgic for glorified poop jokes and deliberate self-abuse. Yet that’s exactly what Jackass Forever inspires as Steve-O stumbles upon a port-a-potty tossed mere seconds into the comedy flick. Feces, someone screaming in fear and adrenaline, captured via GoPro tethered wherever they go: the DIY aesthetic is as fun today as it was in 2000.
The opening salvo, an effects-laden monster movie motif featuring colossal bare testicles, spawns the typical mischief of Johnny Knoxville and company whenever someone is dumb enough to give them a movie budget. Dave England, Wee Man, Preston Lacy, Ehren McGhehey, Chris Pontius, everyone is factored into the schlocky torment.
Now slightly grizzled, their circus of home video mayhem is already wilder, more reckless and anarchic than anything that existed before Knoxville made its intro to usher in that signature guitar twang. Once the ringmaster has cleared the formalities and brought our performers together, it’s time for the thoughtless suffering and poor life choices to begin.
A human ramp is first, soon followed by human surfing. Bodies usually go where bodies shouldn’t, filmed like your mate with a camera phone when you’ve decided 2am is the optimal time to practice your long jump. Tension mounts in the air as someone picks up speed, then a mix of “ooh” and “aah” as they cross the threshold and land. It doesn’t matter if they manage to find their feet, that was never really the point.
Animals, tasers, guns, all the usual are deployed, Jeff Tremaine in the director’s chair as usual. McGhehey competes against Wee Man and new addition Sean ‘Poopies’ McInerney in a spelling and math quiz where losers are hit in the nether regions by a mechanism consisting of a seesaw glued to a drum pedal. Knoxville plays host, apologizing for the danger as he asks the questions.
Yeah man: The best thrillers
Musical chairs appear later, with one rigged to launch someone into the air. Steve-O loses a silence contest against someone whose tongue is electrified and another bitten by a snake. The cut test is brought back from the original series, this time attached to McGhehey, who must take punishment from a professional softball pitcher and Francis Ngannou’s right hook.
It’s one of many ideas revisited, with older imagery contrasted between their youthful endeavors and their older selves. The same people, doing the same stupid things, decades apart. Steve-O mentions that he remembers the last time they were all together like this, for Jackass 3D in 2010. He’s not sure what really changed except that he looks better, and it must be said that he looks in good shape these days.
They all are. If it weren’t for the money on Knoxville’s head, you’d think it all came from a vault of cutting room floor materials. Age is a running theme, with Pontius commenting that he’s had his day, suggesting that’s why we’re more likely to see him wearing a crop top for morale than putting himself in harm’s way. Not that he’s not participating, just with his own brand of toilet humor.
Kaboom! The best action movies
England and Steve-O swap places for another race to light some farts on fire. A real scientist is brought in, with a contraption to contain the excreted gas and ignite it. You can guess how it goes. Camaraderie has always been at the heart of Jackass, and it’s especially pronounced here, as they compromise on old gags and routines. They share the pain, in order to enjoy the communal celebration, both immediately afterwards and in general.
Nothing ever came close to Jackass. A bunch of quirky punk skaters who like to throw themselves into shopping carts and cover themselves in bees just to see what’s going on. Their speed, fueled by catching someone who can record, finding a decent vantage point, and then just trying something, remains singularly brave and inspiring. It would be unnerving, too, if it wasn’t for how much fun they clearly have, an infectious joy that brings you along with them. Other new teammates Jasper Dolphin, Zach Holmes and Rachel Wolfson fit right in, there to take on some of the more laissez-faire activities.
They all care about having fun first, and that’s why Jackass Forever is hilarious. McGhehey’s face sinking when a lie detector test becomes a bear encounter, or Machine Gun Kelly taking a giant hand to the face courtesy of Steve-O, these are simple pleasures. Friends have fun with friends, communicate through quiet jokes and a love built over years of bruises, cuts, hospital visits, lost teeth and broken bones.
Simplicity: The best Netflix series
They are the Three Stooges or Laurel and Hardy of our time. Clowns in everything but costume who do not follow accepted rules and standards. In 2000, Jackass proved that all you need for a good TV series is a group of friends who will try anything. Jackass Forever shows that it’s still everything you want for a great comedy adventure movie, and one that leaves a lump in your throat for those who aren’t there.
The circus must finally leave the city. As far as greatest hits tours go, Jackass Forever is about as glorious as it gets, despite the self-defecation.
Jackass Forever has been in theaters since February 4, 2022.