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Jackass of all trades

Comin’ at you: Johnny Knoxville does his Evel Knievel best in Jackass 3D.

What can you say about a film as culturally rich and intellectually stimulating as Jackass 3D?

Thank God it’s not in Smell-O-Vision, that’s what.

Summer’s here and the time is right — to watch increasingly pudgy and crinkly stuntmen get beaten in the face with large fish, have their teeth pulled out by Lamborghinis, and crazy-gluing their asses together.

The fact that Jackass 3D didn’t hit the fair shores of the Philippines — so one must miss out on the 3D fun to be had watching the above stunts in a cinema — doesn’t mean you can’t catch it on video. It’s just the kind of brain-dead enjoyment that American Idol used to provide, back in the day, albeit without so much pummeling.

Of course, Johnny Knoxville is back, looking like he’s taken a few too many punches to the head or pulled too many sleepless nights over the years. But like the true stunt martyr that he is, he also takes some of the heaviest blows, including being run over by a stampede of buffalo and being tossed into the sky by a pissed-off bull.

What? You’ve seen that stuff before? Well, Jackass 3D provides a few new kicks, such as frequent use of Phantom high-speed cameras, which allow the audience to enjoy each blow to the face and/or testicles in delirious slow-mo detail.

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Too much detail, in some cases. Let’s not overanalyze the homoerotic undercurrents of these bros and their chosen vocation, but they do like to expel a lot of bodily fluids in each other’s presence. There are the scatological fluids and solids, and also those unpleasant things frequently projected out of Steve-O’s mouth, which seems to be sporting a new set of false teeth (either the outcome of too many stunts or too much drug use in the past). Count on Steve-O to endure some of the worst stomach-turning stunts of the movie, including the Poo Cocktail Extreme, in which he is encased in a Port-A-John loaded with excrement and suspended between two bungee cables. When this human yo-yo is launched into the sky, it’s the viewer’s stomach that ends up shaken and stirred.

Slap happy: Hapless office workers are slapped in the head with a huge spring-loaded hand in the High Five stunt.

The opening scene is a corker, introduced by the cartoon characters Beavis and Butthead, who take much enjoyment in the 3D aspects of slapping one another stupid. The cast members — Bam Margera, Steve-O, Ryan Dunn, Chris Pontius, Preston Lacy, Wee Man, Dave England and Danger Ehren — are then shown wearing various costumes and standing before a rainbow backdrop before they’re mortared by an endless array of objects in slow motion. It makes no sense whatsoever, but it’s so beautifully shot, you can’t take your eyes off the contorted faces and wrenched body parts.

Worth the price of admission is new guy “Danger” Ehren McGhehey who consents to have one of his teeth yanked out by a string attached to a Lamborghini racing in the opposite direction. You wouldn’t think this kind of stunt would actually work outside of a Warner Brothers cartoon, but the slow motion reveals the tooth extraction in glorious, gory detail. McGhehey has another star turn in Pin The Tail On The Donkey, in which, blindfolded, he attempts to do just that to a real, live donkey who repeatedly back-kicks him in the leg and nuts.

Who needs CGI when you have these guys around?

Buffaloed: Inspired by a Roger Miller song, Knoxville taunts a buffalo while on rollerskates.

You’ve got to admire the ingenuity, after all these years, of Spike Jonze’s gang of daredevil idiots. Who else would arrange a hallway of activated Tasers and swinging cattle prods and goad the Jackass cast to pass through the obstacle course without getting zapped silly (a stunt amusingly called “Electric Avenue”)? Or what about the Helicockter, in which Chris Pontius ties a string around his Johnson and the other end to a remote-controlled mini-chopper in flight? 

Another cute idea is Beehive Tetherball, in which Dave England and Steve-O, dressed in bear headgear (and not much else), bat around a nest full of Africanized “killer” bees until they’re nearly stung to death. “How many bee stings does it take to kill you?” asks Dave before the stunt. “About 100 will kill you,” notes the attending bee expert, as thousands of angry bees are poured into the hive. “Just go for 99, then take off,” suggests a helpful cast member.

Topping the gross-out list has to be Sweatsuit Cocktail, in which rotund Jackass member Preston Lacy wears plastic shrinkwrap while walking on a treadmill. His sweat is dutifully collected and fed through a tube into plastic cups… which Steve-O and others gulp down on camera. The ensuing vomiting is presumably enhanced by the 3D technology.

You may think these folks are mentally damaged, but there’s gold to be had in jackassery: Jackass 3D cost about $20 million to make and earned some $159 million at the US box office. That’s a pretty solid return on investment for acting stupid.

The infamous Poo Cocktail Extreme, as demonstrated by Steve-O.

Of course, no one escapes injury forever. Reportedly, Bam Margera suffered three broken ribs and a broken shoulder during shooting, but it was a run-in with a 59-year-old African-American woman who beat him over the head with a baseball bat in a Los Angeles bar that nearly did him in: he suffered brain injury and nearly didn’t finish the shoot. Steve-O, meanwhile, overcame his demons and filmed Jackass 3D straight, claims Knoxville: “Everyone has had different injuries throughout which is a good sign and Steve-O is probably getting the best footage out of everybody. He is really going for it. He wants to prove to everyone he can do these stunts sober.” It’s strange days indeed when you can say that being drenched in Port-A-John poo counts as some kind of personal redemption.

The explosions that open and close Jackass movies seem to serve a thematic purpose. It’s to remind us, perhaps, of the cathartic release of destruction, the joy of voyeuristic pain (as long as it’s not ours). Yet for some reason, these guys always emerge intact, indestructible. You could say we live in a time of superhero worship, what with all the comic book movie franchises, or the way the kids’ section of National Book Store is dominated by vampire, zombie and werewolf fantasies. Kids may be seeking escape in all of this, but what’s our excuse — we adults who somehow can’t stop enjoying the massacre of the human body? Perhaps the cast of Jackass are suffering for our cultural sins.

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