25 October 2010

First Impressions: Jackass 3D

This is really a once in a generation moment. Alright, it's more like a thrice a generation moment. But it's still special. When the realms of taste, humanity and reality are pushed to their extreme, when any prior concept of cinema comes crashing down around us, when when a fecal geyser erupts from a humble man's Mountain Bottom, these are special times indeed. This is Jackass 3D (2010).

Oh what a lovely bunch. Now, I've admitted before to being a big fan of the Franchise, ever since its beginnings on MTV a decade ago. The ascendancy is spectacular. The original Jackass incorporated guerrilla filming tactics to capture moments that ranged from the immensely clever and innocent (for its part), playing on society's buttons, and of course the requisite stunts ranging from pain to disgusting. The current film is much of the same really (with the simple fact that all these elements are spun to their zenith). There are some notable differences though, all of which deserve mention here:

Did That Cameraman Really Throw-Up on the Six-Figure Phantom 3D Camera?

Yes he did. Jackass 3D was filmed on some of the most expensive Cameras available and the images they capture are breathtaking. Yes, the slow motion flaccid penis is breathtaking. This is a huge step from the shady, often personal use cameras used in the original television show. Suddenly these guys are capturing slow motion vomit and feces better than Planet Earth does ducks falling. The cameras captured the action not only in Three Dimensions but at 1,000 frames per second, which leads to some incredible shots. Agreed, the subject of which are much better seen than read, so go check it out.

Apparently there was a little connection to Zombieland (2009) through a common Make-Up Effects Designer. The opening scenes are also stylistically similar in the sense of really suave, crisp and intriguing slow motion scenes, also reminiscent of Watchmen (2009), which I mentioned in this article. Actually I wager that Jackass' opener is the best of all these flicks. Most are slowed down and ridiculous interpretations of prior famous stunts for each member and the shooting is incredible. For this series to upgrade their camera work so substantially is insane but really perfect for what they've always attempted to achieve. That is, maximum discomfort and goofy chuckling from its audience. It heightens their jackassery that they have such legitimate means to sculpt their craft. Beautiful.

I also really enjoyed the soundtrack. Prior installments have typically found great pairings for montage and music. Jackass 3D adds more of the same, some probably as original inspiration (Knoxville's charm and natural comic sensibility is on full display here by the way) others possibly out of place in how touching they are. I did enjoy Karen O's version of "If You're Gonna Be Dumb, You got to be Tough," playing over the credits, but when they've already utilized the Roger Alan Wade version it seems like they ran out of ideas, even when that track is just about perfect to sum up the whole of Jackass.

Examination in Context:

Looking over this film with the fine eye of a loyal Jackass fan, there are some subtle differences in what we got. For one, the film was heavy on animal use and stunts over gross-out gags and practical jokes. Not like the film didn't have its fair share of all, but it seemed as though the gang had a greater proclivity towards tangling with all kinds of wild animals and seeing what happened. The Bulls were a great on-going theme in Jackass Number Two (2006), this installment seemed to go a similar route with big mammals that hit, like Buffalo and Rams.

There was also the classic "Old Man" bit it wasn't as good as The Shoplifter or pissing on a construction site. There was also a part where an unusual body part of Chris Pontius fights a dangerous small animal and some other similar retreads. There is certainly a fair amount of original material, but we've seen Ryan Dunn attempt to jump creeks before (in worse weather and water) and we've seen Bam's parents freak out at live animals unleashed close quarters before. It's like giving us green apples instead of red ones. The taste is kind of unique but c'mon.

Some of the generally innocent stunts are still the best. Jet Engines and Jared Allen are welcome painful additions (What the hell is with Sean William Scott doing there without a single line?). There were much fewer practical jokes unleashed on the populace this time around, possibly due to the larger, expensive cameras used to film the nonsense.

As for the cast, Knoxville really went above and beyond during Number Two, he and Pontius always seemed like the dudes who just laughed at all the pain instead of crying or vomiting (see Bam and Steve-O). Pontius looked like he didn't have anything to do this entire film other than get butt naked all the time. We saw a ton of Preston Lacy for some reason, who seemed eager to use his rotund proportions for just about any gag possible. Wee Man had a few great bits as did both Dave England and Danger Ehren, the latter two I've always just thought of as the biggest pieces of shit in the cast. The only really funny thing Bam does is cry over snakes. Finally, Ryan Dunn and Steve-O have some great bits, including a proper send-off of the film by Steve-O. Let's talk about that:

Each film thus far has generally ended with a long-form prank or sketch that superceded all that came before. Jackass: The Movie (2002) ended with Steve-O graciously declining the "Toy Car in Ass" sketch and Dunn taking one for the team and getting some ridiculous X-Rays. Number Two had a huge prank on a prank with a celebrity cameo from Jay Chandrasekhar, messing with pretend terrorist Ehren McGhehey as well as giving him a nice pube beard.

3D ends with the "Poo Cocktail Supreme," which while probably one of their most dangerous sketches, it's not set up as well. They propped up the Ass Car as something so extreme even Steve-O wouldn't do it. Both prior ending sketches had enough nervous anticipation allowing the dangers of the sketch to breathe. Poo Cocktail didn't feel this way. They just kind of did it. That's probably insignificant criticism but I wanted something a bit more spectacular (although it's not looking like this will go away soon). At any rate, I'm glad Steve-O got the honour of the last bit, especially after a rough couple of years.

In parting, I'll mention it's fucking rough to be involved in any way with the production of a Jackass movie. In all odds you're likely to be pissed on, shaved or literally punched in the face. Even using a Porta-Potty is dangerous. At its heart though it's just a bunch of guys having fun acting out what they watched on Saturday Morning Cartoons. Some of the facial hits are just brutal, thanks Josh Brown. There are so many unbelievable parts to this film although the majority was shot on private property with cameras that should never be allowed near cats who throw up with such frequency. It's a good film. The editing is typically tight, the laughs are high and the thing looks as beautiful, probably more so than AVABAR (2009). It's definitely the kind of film that you will know you'll love or hate going into it, so if you're a fan, it's worth seeing, if not, stay home.

Stay far away.

Happy Landings

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