REVIEW: Jackass 3D

At a recent screening of Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom in Toronto, the filmmaker John Waters was prompted to remark on the similarities between Pasolini’s infamous work and Jackass 3D, the third cinematic release inspired by the MTV stunt show. Pointing to the unruly qualities of both films, Waters noted that, “all the Jackass movies are completely anarchic because they’re movies that seem like gay snuff films made for heterosexual blue collar families”.

Given the social and physical transgressions that have become synonymous with the Jackass brand it’s hard to question the logic of Waters’ appraisal. While Jackass 3D may not share the allegorical aspirations of Pasolini’s controversial masterpiece the film revels in the same carnivalesque fascination with the human body. The volcanic eruptions of faeces and vomit, ambush urinations, cacophony of farts, and procession of bodily hurt (most often inflicted upon the face or genitals) are the comic mainstay in Jackass’ feast of foolery.

While the sketch format of this outing differs little from its predecessors, the addition of 3D has resulted in a far more remarkable filmic presentation. Making excellent use of the new technology, many of the stunt sequences are captured here in super slow motion. Beyond the vicarious thrill or discomfort at watching the bodies of grown men ripple, contort or thrust airwards via a series of blows and collisions, there’s a certain visual poetry at play here. Like Eadweard Muybridge’s motion photography of the late 1800s, Jackass 3D seeks to capture and explore the limits of the human form through the wonders of cinematic representation.

Admittedly, not all of the skits pack the same comic punch. Those in which ringleader Johnny Knoxville adorns his ‘old man’ costume to fraternise with the public alters the approach to a ‘candid camera’ style of comedy and the result is far less successful. But such moments are in the minority.

Regardless of the carnivalesque traditions to which Jackass 3D adheres, it’s likely that some commentators will embrace the opportunity to cite the film as evidence of a cultural decline or to draw some spurious link between these stunts and the episodic violence prevalent to much of contemporary horror cinema (eg. Saw). But such criticism and comparisons overlook a key aspect of Jackass’ appeal.

While the current cycle of horror films revels in brutality and abject sadism (often without any political or cultural awareness), the Jackass films, however violent, scatological and adolescent, are works of intense joy. Despite their prankster personas, there remains an intense camaraderie amongst the troupe, an infectious celebration of bodily excess and the trespassing of social taboos.

If Jackass 3D proves to be the last in the franchise’s cinematic releases (an outcome implied by the final credits sequence) then the film’s climax is suitably grandiose. Like many of the scenes in this ballet of masculine pain, Jackass 3D ends with not one, but a series of exquisitely timed explosive bangs.

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One Response to “REVIEW: Jackass 3D”

  1. What a sensational review! Who would have thought it would be possible to write something so insightful about a Jackass film? You absolutely nailed it. It really is the celebratory aspect that makes what these guys do so entertaining.

    I love that quote from Waters too – absolutely spot on.

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