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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

For the love of "Jackass"

While I was visiting my family in Texas, my nephew and I went to see Jackass 3D on opening day. We liked it a lot, and we laughed—a lot. And we weren't the only ones. From the Dickhouse website:

Jackass 3D earned $50.4 million dollars on its opening weekend. Pretty amazing, huh? Or at least that was my initial superficial take on the news, but just look at how someone else delved into the record books for the full "by the numbers" breakdown:

1) Jackass 3D is the highest opening film ever in the month of October (passing 2003’s Scary Movie 3’s $48.1M).

2) Jackass 3D is the 9th highest opening R-Rated film of all-time and 2nd highest for a comedy only behind 2008’s Sex and the City ($57M).

3) Jackass 3D is the 9th highest opening 3D film (9th to have a $50M+ opening – best for an R-Rated film and best for a comedy).

4) Jackass 3D is the 10th highest opening comedy of all-time (includes action comedies Rush Hour 2 and both Men in Black’s, otherwise it’s the 7th highest).

5) Jackass 3D is the highest opening ever for a non-scripted/documentary-esque film.

What is it about the violent and frequently nauseating antics of these guys that is still so much fun to watch? Certainly it's the camaraderie; they're all buds, and no matter how cruelly they treat each other, they usually laugh it off (except for Bam and his mortal fear of snakes). They break and bruise and get their teeth knocked out, and yet they jump right back up and ask for more. Jackass is like a live-action Tom and Jerry cartoon with humans.

And we've gotten to know and love these guys over the years. We know that Bam is going to terrorize his parents, Preston and Wee Man will do a stunt that plays up their vast size differential (they were super-glued stomach-to-stomach in the latest installment) and Chris will get naked. Steve-O has become a specialist in the gross-out stunts and has developed the ability to vomit on cue.

I don't want to spoil any of the fun with a great deal of description, but the film was actually shot in 3D, rather than upconverted, so some of the mayhem is nicely enhanced by the added dimension. The opening credit sequence in particular has lots of slow-motion destruction with shards of glass and water flying out of the screen.

It was hard to top Part 2's horse scene for grossness (and you know what I'm talking about), but they give it their best shot by strapping Steve-O into a Port-a-Potty and bungeeing it up in the air. Here, you see...stuff...in 3D that gets pretty hard to watch. But that's part of the fun, isn't it? How long can you look before you are forced to turn away?

Entertainment Weekly critic Owen Gleiberman called Knoxville "the purest, most devoted slapstick anarchist in comedy today," while the Washington Post's Dan Kois said that Jackass is "a touching ode to male friendship at its most primal." Wow. And last week the newest film screened at New York's Museum of Modern Art!

The Boston Globe's Wesley Morris gets downright prosaic in his description: "...the Jackass crew ...understands that what’s compelling about 3-D is not what it sprays or rubs in your face, but how expanding the depth of field enhances that splendor of the spraying. At a late stage, urine cascades through the air. As it arcs up then down onto an unsuspecting bystander — always a member of the gang, never you, never me — what’s apparent in its trajectory is the crisp beauty of the stream. Light reflects off the droplets. The hang time is Jordanesque. Meanwhile, the rumpled hose that does the spouting occupies a sizable portion of the left side of the screen. At such a swollen size, it’s more like a giant leaky slug than a human penis, and, though it belongs to the small, floridly tattooed Bam Margera, it and its contents are treated as lovingly as Michelangelo treated David’s."

Now that's a review!

Slate's Dana Stevens is the first to admit that the Jackass series is for the boys, although there were quite a few girls, woman and entire families (!) at the screening I attended. I think the secret to its success is that it's everything-friendly. As crude as the humor gets, no one is really demeaned or humiliated. When you think about it, Jackass is really not that far removed from the "we dare you to watch" mondo movies and cannibal vomitoriums of the 70s and 80s. It's just that you feel like you've spent some time with good buddies while you were puking.

Johnny Knoxville says that so much footage was shot that there's enough to put together an immediate sequel. Now, if they present it in 3D and Smell-o-Vision. While we wait for that, Knoxville will appear in Untitled Comedy, a series of comedic vignettes inspired by old-school films like Kentucky Fried Movie and Pontius will be in Sofia Coppola's Somewhere starring Stephen Dorff and arriving December 22.

1 comment:

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