The problem with the Jackass movies is not their inherent stupidity or tendency toward self-destruction, that refrain from parents that the films are destroying the fabric of humanity by their mere existence, wreaking havoc on the minds of young impressionable children. It’s the fact that the movies themselves are a mixed bag. Given the cheapness of the concept, the ever-increasing budgets (and profits) of the films, and the amount of footage the ‘filmmakers’ shoot, you’d think it would be a little easier to populate a 90-minute picture with non-stop laughs. Sure, humor is subjective (in most cases) and the movies all have their fair share of major guffaws, but the dead-spots in a picture like Jackass 3D are enough to call into question the worthiness of the ticket price, especially when you take into consideration that the movie will be released on DVD with hours of ‘bonus’ footage. Maybe the cast and crew can’t help but part with specific stunts that the audience would rank lower on the hilarity meter, because their personal involvement and shameless self-sacrifice disables them from being an impartial narrator during the editing process. Maybe they think the dumb stuff is as funny as the ridiculous stuff and we just have different tastes. In any case, Jackass 3D is a short movie but feels adequate length for a feature with a few dead spots.
Its use and exploitation of the added third dimension is the best excuse for donning the dweeby plastic glasses since Piranha 3D. What is it about low-brow cinema that understands 3D better than high-brow cinema? When you’re dealt a dirty hand, you play dirty. If 3D is a cheap, pandering means to fill the seats at an added ticket price, then I understand its inception (lack of pun intentional). I don’t mind watching films that exploit the third dimension, so long as they’re honest about it. Movies like Clash of the Titans exploit the third dimension as the way to- pardon the phrase- polish a turd. They already know their movie is a steaming pile of garbage, so why not gussy it up in some three-dimensional make-up and trot it around town. I like nothing less so much than being lied to, and this sort of attitude- yeah, it’s shit, but 3D shit!- just feels like the kind of slight of hand salesmanship that manages to pull the wool over the American public’s eyes time and again. I see no fundamental difference between it and the “Saddam might have WMDs, so protect our freedom” logic that got us into our current military quagmire. Come to think of it, it’s also the cause of the housing crisis. “Don’t worry, America. You can trust our nice big banks to support your greedy little loans.” It’s bad salesmanship. It’s a purposeful mistruth. It’s a McDonald’s cheeseburger wrapped around your mouth in a smile.
So maybe Jackass 3D isn’t all bad. At least it knows what it is: 90+minutes of three-dimensional dick jokes and pratfalls. If you can’t get on board with that premise, then I’m sorry, you’re what’s wrong with America. You can claim to be some higher-educated man-ape, but we all know the truth. If you’re intelligent in the slightest then you think man evolved from monkeys. And monkeys masturbate, throw banana peels, and fall from trees to the comic delight of other monkeys. They hump and hoot and holler. And this is high art to monkeys. Now this argument naturally excludes the increasingly reasonable invention of a talking monkey, a literal man-ape, science permitting. Would a talking monkey find Jackass 3D hilarious? No, but only because it would be too busy screaming about how much it was masturbating and throwing poop around the movie theater- “THIS IS AMAZING. HAVE YOU TRIED THIS?”
My point is this, America is what’s wrong with America. Humanity is what’s wrong with humanity. We evolved from beings that we call lower, that eat and fart and put bugs in their noses. How is this any different from what we do every day? We drink and fart and fuck. We live and laugh and love. Jackass 3D seems to be the only one willing to admit the fact that the differences between those two stacks of actions aren’t that noticeable. For all our technology, for all our science and reason, we still contrive our resources to create new means of conveying fart jokes across the universe. And there’s something reasonable about that, something not so embarrassing.
We as a culture demand to make each other laugh. We want to be funny, well-liked and reasonable human beings. But there are base and primal urges within us that contradict what we consider to be our deeper nature: Our desire for knowledge of art, culture, and philosophy- some sense of permanent reason throughout all the madness. There isn’t any- and perhaps our greatest failure as thinking apes is our demand that there must be, and that we are somehow at the center. Whether this planet is wiped out in an instant or a lifetime, life will go on with or without us. It always has, and it always will be. We’re not the cause or the end-all-be-all. Stop worrying about the planet. It has a reset button. We don’t.
So is it good or bad to laugh at Jackass as a human? More concretely, is it good that Jackass is capable of making humans laugh? If a man like Spike Jonze, a touted filmmaker, thoughtful and capable of great artistic leaps, can produce a movie where a ping-pong ball is hurled in slow-motion at a man’s penis and whacked like a baseball at a home run derby courtesy of Chris Pontius, a rich beyond measure Jackass star, then I think we need to take a second look at what we find funny as a people. I think there’s something funny about Jackass, something noble about the pursuit of these idiot men trying to injure themselves in increasingly creative ways. The fact that the movie made so much money is evidence itself that there’s something compelling about the premise, or alternately something wrong with the very core of our being. Whichever it is, the movie works on a fundamental level, and its only flaws are when the injuries come in less creative doses or seem like too much of the same thing. Is there a perfect Jackass movie to be made in three-dimensions? Probably, but it would have have to be a mixtape of the finest moments in Jackass history, because some of the classic clips, in a Ali G Show kind of way, capture the humor of an era as it was evolving. Maybe Jackass 3D is the Toy Story ending of a trilogy. Is there a secret edit of an ultimate movie hidden somewhere between the three, or are we going to have to buy the Jackass 4-EVER blu-ray combo pack for $79.99?!