JACKASS is an important new documentary produced by oscar nominated director Spike Jonze and the MTV television network. Using the “digital video” camera technology a group of young daredevils were able to capture a slice of life that just may blow the lid off of american culture, etc. Or whatever.
It turns out JACKASS: THE THING OTHER THAN THE MOVIE is a tv show on the MTV music channel. Created by Johnny Knoxville, who got the job by spraying himself in the face with pepper spray and shocking himself with a taser (but only on a camcorder, not on some ongoing competitive reality series or anything), it is some kind of tv show. I’m not very familiar with the character or storylines so I have no way of judging if the movie is faithful to the show. But I thought it was good.
I guess JACKASS comes out of the famous “extreme sports subculture.” Here is what I know about “the extreme sports subculture.”
- It has something to do with snowboarding, or that thing where you jump out of a plane but for some reason you are wearing a snowboard on your feet. Also there is probaly one where you jump out of a plane while playing one of those v-shaped electric guitars. I’m not sure about that one though I’ll have to verify that.
- It spawned many fine secret agents such as XXX and EXTREME OPS. They are different from James Bond because they are younger, they videotape everything they do for posterity, and they are fighting to protect rap music and video games instead of the monarchy
- Products such as Mountain Dew, Sobe Adrenaline Rush, and Extreme Doritos are in, drugs are out
- “in your face” attitude
- a way of life, etc.
Well I don’t ride snowboards but fortunately the movie stands on its own. The characters are introduced riding in a giant shopping cart. They all act real tough, with tattoos, or there is a fat guy and a midget dressed up kind of like Evil Kneival. After that strong opening the story is all over the place. I gotta be honest it was kind of hard to follow, like GUMMO with alot more stunts, vomit, shooting bottlerockets out of their ass, etc.
Let me try to summarize it though. Johnny Knoxville plays a young man who rents a rental car, then spraypaints a number on the side and gets it reinforced so he can enter it in a crash up derby competition. Then he brings it back, completely destroyed, with two inflatable sex dolls in the back, and tells the rental company that they will have to help pay for the damage.
It took me a while to figure out that he and the guys in the shopping cart are part of some sort of secret organization, maybe called J.A.C.K.A.S.S. would be my guess, based on my knowledge of ’70s television shows. They are masters of disguise so in their mission they dress up as fat guys and skateboard on skateboard ramps with the famous video game character Tony Hawk, also in a fat suit. Then they have to go undercover as old men to shoplift and do stunts driving Rascals down stairs, etc. Spike Jonze has a memorable supporting role as an old man who drives his rascal down a steep city street yelling “My brakes! My brakes!” Which in my opinion may have sort of “freaked out” some of the witnesses.
Now all this time you’re kind of wondering okay, they are in disguise, and they are doing all these stunts. For example they completely destroy a miniature golf course through the irresponsible maneuvering of golf carts. Also they are always training. Remember the scene in FIRST BLOOD where Colonel Trautman explained that John Rambo was so fuckin tough that “he’ll eat things that’d make a billygoat puke”? If you are too young to have seen FIRST BLOOD, just think of the trailer for THE HUNTED or whatever that new one is where Tommy Lee Jones explains that no way can this army of guys take on Benicio Del Toro. How do you know? I trained him.
Well this is the same thing. These guys are constantly pushing themselves to the limit, preparing for the future. They are always crashing into a wall or rolling down some stairs or jumping off a trampoline right into a ceiling fan. One guy snorts a big glob of wasabi. I don’t know if it makes a billygoat puke, but it makes him puke. They make papercuts between the webbing of their fingers and toes, or electrocute their own balls, or pee all over a bunch of snow and try to eat it and then puke all over the place. Oh jesus I haven’t seen that much puke in a long time. In my opinion only, not to be too preachy but I think there was too much puke in this movie, human or billygoat.
Also just too much of a fixation on ass and shitting. I mentioned before that they shot bottlerockets out of their ass. I may have forgot to mention that one of them is tied to a guy’s dick. Also there is a guy who goes into a plumbing store and shits in a display toilet. Before he does that though he has a misfire where he shits his pants in the van on the way to the plumbing store, and the camera guy starts puking. I mean these guys are really into puking. If somebody looks nauseous, they will start making horking noises until he pukes. This practice is responsible for at least two or three of the pukes in this movie.
I mean this Johnny Knoxville is a pretty handsome dude, with a sense of humor, and he has a very successful career in show business, with a hit tv show and movie and he’s starting to act in major motion pictures and what not. I’m sure the ladies are all over him. I wonder what they think though when they watch this movie and see him so delighted talking about his friend’s asses and watching them shit or piss or puke all over themselves or piss and then eat it and then puke, or whatever the case may be.
Anyway I got off the subject there. What I was saying is these J.A.C.K.A.S.S. agents have all their disguises, and the action, and the training. But for what? For who? Well I don’t think there is any one true answer, this movie is up to interpretation. But I think maybe the bad guy is this one dude’s parents. Because they keep going into their house and setting off fireworks inside the bedroom when they’re asleep, or letting a real live crocodile loose in their house. This stuff is real sadistic, but pretty funny. But then you gotta wonder if there are some real issues here during the scene where the dude runs in and just starts punching his dad while he’s on the shitter, and then runs off.
Really come to think of it it is really more of a slice of life, this is what it’s like for today’s youth kind of deal. Not so much a story about good vs. evil, overcoming the odds or anything like that. I wonder if Larry Clark has seen this documentary? People always say KIDS was an exaggeration but if this is what the kids are up to now I think maybe in retrospect Larry was sleeping on the job. I wonder if he knows about the bottlerockets.
I guess what you could say is this is a series of stunts and pranks. I think there are a couple things that makes it work. First of all, I like how they don’t waste time telling the people “Ha ha, it was a joke, like on that old tv show Candid Camera they used to have, or hundreds of different ripoffs throughout the years, such as TV’s Bloopers and Practical Jokes to name only one example.” In alot of the shows like “Jame Kennedy Experience” they do a joke and then they fill time by showing all the people laugh and have a good time when the joke is revealed. Here there is none of that pussy bullshit. The J.A.C.K.A.S.S. approach is to just horrify somebody and then move on. There are a couple exceptions in this movie but then it’s kind of a relief because when you put a crocodile in your mom’s house, for example, it’s harder to just move on without making sure she’s going to be okay.
Another reason it works is that these guys are total fuckin maniacs. I really cannot believe some of the shit they pull in this movie. I saw it in a full theater and everybody, including me, was flinching or covering their mouth constantly through the movie. It was like an entire movie of nervous laughter and gasps.
Maybe they weren’t trying to paint a shocking portrait of america, I don’t know. It should still be entered into the best documentary feature category at the oscars. But there is one educational part that is interesting. Mr. Knoxville hires a non-lethal weapons expert to fire a beanbag at his stomach.
The guy seems very hesitant to do it, and insists that Knoxville has to wear protective gear because if it hit him in the heart it would kill him. The guy shoots him in the stomach instead and Knoxville looks like he’s in the worst possible pain. Then they show it three days later and he’s still in pain, and he has the ugliest bruise you’ve ever seen on a movie star, in colors representing the entire spectrum of the bruise rainbow.
This is interesting if you remember the WTO protests of ’99 or any clash between police and protesters that may have happened in your neck of the woods. These are the same “harmless” beanbags that Seattle cops used to shoot at hippies, environmentalists in homemade turtle costumes, and random passersby during WTO. People who were trying unsuccessfully to either exercise their constitutional right to free speech, or catch a bus. And these cops weren’t worrying too much about hitting somebody in the heart.
That is why every american must see JACKASS: THE MOVIE. Don’t try to eat during it though.
VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.