“Jackass 3D” recalls early cinema, but more mean-spirited

The first films ever made were single reels of a recorded event.  A boat rocking in the ocean as the sun set; a baby eating between smiling parents. These were soon followed by the fantastic special effects of the Méliès films and the daring do’s of Buster Keaton.  The work of the Jackass team is working within parameters strangely reminiscent of early cinema- but with much more mean spiritedness and fecal matter.

The types of stunts filmed for Jackass fall into roughly four categories:

1) Disgusting

In stunts that will make body-horror fans gleeful, all things related to the body are on display.  Urination, defecation, vomiting, and plenty of penises.  If you have ever wanted to know what it looks like to pee on people from the penis’s point of view, then good news! This is the film for you.

2) Stunts

The guys get together to perform elaborate stunts with the hope of success and the possibility of minor injury: launching cohorts into a lake while taking paintball fire or attempting to stick a sling-shot propelled landing into a kiddie pool. These are the types of things you might try in your teens to twenties, but with a larger budget.

3) Unsuspecting Bystander/Prank

Just like the tv show’s stunt in which the pranksters attach a baby carrier to the roof of a moving vehicle, these gags fill innocent people with horror as they witness a grandfather make out with his nineteen year old granddaughter, or the same grandfather driving a scooter through a window.

4) Mean-Spirited

In contrast to the other three stunt categories, the mean-spirited skits involve one or more guys doing something whose sole intent is to hurt someone physically or even emotionally.  One of the jackasses has to literally pin a tail on a donkey.  He blindly gropes for the ass of the ass with his legs wide open to receive a hooved kick. The jackass guys may be laughing, but I only felt sadness for this poor fool who had been peer pressured into such a situation.

The worst part of the whole film is when the guys exploit their friendship with Bam Margera to reduce him to tears: they know he’s deathly afraid of snakes, so they dupe him into falling into a pit of the rubber reptiles.  When Bam is already frightened and pleading to be pulled up, they drop in real snakes, including an albino python of great length and girth.  The guys just laugh as they hear Bam crying to be let out.

All I can say is “WTF?”  The stunts and pranks of Jackass have always been amusing based on the hope of success and the victimless nature of both (stunts: you’re hoping to do something cool; pranks: they have to acquire the rights to film those involved, so they have to tell these people what happened after the fact).  However, it seems the longer the films go on, the further their stars push the envelope in terms of grossing out audiences or sacrificing their own bodies to stay relevant.

The disgusting and mean-spirited stunts in Jackass 3D are perfect examples of why I avoid reality television, as it’s about laughing at someone and/or receiving joy from their debasement by another (coughHell’sKitchencoughcough).  There’s something deeply wrong with this at a basic human level. When the guys have to run through a gauntlet of dandling tasers and cattle prods, I’m too busy worrying that someone’s actually going to die to pay attention to anything else. Contrast this with a stunt involving a giant hand that knocks guys on their ass–in this one, I’m laughing because I don’t have to worry about witnessing someone’s death.

The Jackass tv show began in 2000 and was once the best places to see real stunts as Hollywood was becoming saturated in CGI fakery.  However, with the rise of Youtube, similar gags are just a click away, and the ones on Jackass are now merely bigger-budgeted gimmicks.  Not to mention, it’s obvious that the stars have been doing this for too long, based on both their physical appearance and some of their played up reactions.  Paydays are on the line of course, so make sure it looks like fun!

As I have previously stated, I am not a fan of 3D at all, but I will give some props to this film in that area. 3D was not distracting (as I usually find it to be) and sometimes even accomplished what everyone has promised with 3D: it felt like I was sharing space with what was on-screen.  Considering I only felt this for milliseconds during the entire run of Avatar, props to the guys for making me feel like I was really there for at least 10 seconds (regardless, 3D still has a long way to go and isn’t worth the extra charge).

Some of the film is funny, some of it is disgusting (do I really need to see poop shoot out of a guy’s butt?), and some of it stereotypical male insensitivity or even outright bullying.  Anytime a film wants to laugh at (not laugh with) the suffering of others – count me out.

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