If Jackass 3D defies any preconceived notions, it’s the surprisingly well-crafted aesthetic of the film; utilising multiple camera angles, slow motion effects and a bright, non-gaudy colour palette, director Jeff Tremaine almost manages to instil the most profoundly gross out moments with a certain ‘beauty’ depending on your disposition.
However, whatever fleeting pleasures there are to be had from its style, its content will undoubtedly (negatively) disgust, unless your idea of entertainment is watching a gang of ageing frat boys vomit, shit and piss on or around one another. Supposedly generationally divisive, any enjoyment of Jackass 3D will depend less on your age and more on your sensibilities but, for a franchise with a devout following, it is likely audiences entering the cinema will do so knowing what to expect. With this in mind, Johnny Knoxville et al have purposefully constructed the film to meet these expectations, changing not one iota of the successful formula which has already spawned two prior cinematic outings which, in turn, regurgitated the structure of the popular television incarnation.
Alongside the usual stunts involving portable toilets, genital abuse and physical endurance tests laced with homoeroticism, there are subtler ‘gags’ that closer resemble sketches from Trigger Happy TV which, as circumstance has it, happen to be the funniest. In what is probably the highlight, secretly hidden cameras catch the public’s bemused reaction as Wee Man’s date in a bar with a fellow midget suddenly erupts into a brawl with her ‘boyfriend’, backed up by his similarly sized gang. The scene climaxes with the arrival of a pair of little policeman who are accompanied by a mini ambulance crew, the faces of the onlooking crowd growing more incredulous with every kick and punch. It’s a joke layered like a Russian doll unfolding which, whilst it may not be that sophisticated, is undeniably funny.
The weakest instance, verging on the genuinely insulting, is a sequence where Steve O, harnessed inside a portaloo filled with dog faeces, is shot into the air on an enormous bungee rope. A Perspex screen placed underneath the action, situated to provide the audiences’ viewpoint, captures the cascading shit with the resulting effect of figuratively and literally crapping on the viewer. For a film that had so far ‘respected’ its audience, it’s a construct of such minor accomplishment it leaves a bad taste in your mouth, as if what had appeared to be a 3D illusion had actually managed to enter you somehow.
Ultimately, you can’t complain if you found Jackass offensive or repellent as a cursory glance at its synopsis would be a sufficient deterrent. However, viewed subjectively and therefore without admiration, it’s a juvenile, crushingly dull and fairly depressing insight into the world of jocks and attention seekers who are willing to endure some appalling acts just to be on camera.
The critics who inevitably question the right of this project to be shown in cinemas, let alone exist, are missing the point – the real question, for them, is what do people see in Jackass and why is it so popular? Whatever you consider the answer to be, if you haven’t enjoyed Jackass before, it is best advised you avoid seeing this film or you only have yourself to blame.