Jackass Forever Review: 20 Years Later, It's Just As Demented As Ever

Chaos has never been more hilarious or perverse than when you enter the world of "Jackass". Twenty years after the original film was unleashed in theaters by Paramount Pictures and MTV Films, and a few sequels and spin-off shows later, the crew of this warped fantasia of stunts, nudity, and gleeful gross-out humor has survived to make a fourth entry in the series, "Jackass Forever". Although some of the cast members have aged notably – ringleader Johnny Knoxville's hair is white in a number of segments, for example – their appetite for personal destruction has not ebbed. "Jackass Forever" is as bluntly, dementedly, brilliantly funny and horrific, and unforgettable as any of its predecessors or the TV series that started it all. If you are a fan of anything or anyone even tangentially related to "Jackass Forever," you can rest assured that you know what you're getting.

That might be worth noting near the top of this review: though we can lob the phrase "critic-proof" at big-budget blockbuster nonsense, there really isn't a more critic-proof film than "Jackass Forever." The movie itself feels like a paraphrase of a snappy line from the 1991 comedy "Barton Fink": it's a "Jackass" movie with outlandish stunts, Johnny Knoxville, and heaping helpings of frontal male nudity. Whaddya need, a road map? Just as director Jeff Tremaine, the largely reunited cast (except, sadly, the late Ryan Dunn, who died in a car accident a decade ago), and some assorted guest stars know what movie they're making, it's safe to say that any audience member will likely have a good idea of what to expect. All a review of this movie can come down can be for a critic to follow in the steps of Roger Ebert, and decide if he can be honest with himself and admit that he laughed himself hoarse at the proceedings. Reader, this is that review of "Jackass Forever" because I am that critic.

Some of the stunts in "Jackass Forever" are as terrifying as they are memorably funny. An early high point is a riff on the beloved thriller "The Silence of the Lambs," in which Knoxville and the crew invite in a few separate duos among the "Jackass" crew, including Wee Man, Preston Lacy, Dave England, and new cast member Sean "Poopies" McInerney, into an unassuming room where they're shown a deadly rattlesnake being displayed by an animal handler. The duos are then escorted out of the room briefly, and when they're sent back in, the door is slammed shut, the lights turn off, and we see – via night-vision goggles – that while the rattlesnake has been removed, the cast members are unaware and scared out of their wits. 

The Hits Keep On Comin'

As hilarious as "Jackass Forever" is, it's also easy to imagine how indescribably scary it can be to work in this world, and wonder when the pranks end. If they end. Danger Ehren, as he's known still, gets a fair brunt of it, including another climactic high point where he's strapped to both a lie detector test and an electric shock device ... while a bear is let loose on him. (Oh yes, he's also been adorned with honey and pieces of salmon. A slight detail worth noting.) Danger Ehren also gets to do a revival of an early "Jackass" stunt, the Cup Test, which is a simple four-part test of how effective protective gear that athletes wear to cover their genitalia are. Here, Danger Ehren is beset upon by a UFC heavyweight, a softball pitcher, a hockey star, and ... well, the last part of the test is too gruesome to even hint at in the review.

"Jackass Forever," like its predecessors, is as proudly homemade-feeling as even the show was. Though so many of the men onscreen are two decades older – there's a handful of newbies, as well as some younger actors and musicians, who talk about how formative "Jackass" was when they were growing up – they all still display the genuine bonds of friendship and equal-opportunity madness that have bound them together. It's not just that you'd have to be a touch crazy to agree to, say, wear half of a "spider helmet" in the hopes of blowing enough air into a spider's gaping maw so that it turns around and attacks the person wearing the other half of the helmet. It's that you have to like the people putting you up to the prank. And that, more than anything, is what makes even the truly disgusting, how-in-God's-name-did-this-gag-not-earn-the-NC-17-rating stuff remarkably enjoyable: you're watching friends go through this insanity.

"Jackass Forever" is not high art, nor is it trying to be. This movie captures the inexplicable joy of grossing your buddies out for a good laugh, just as the other "Jackass" movies have done. But it also tips its hand to the passage of time, so that when Steve-O agrees to tie a cage with a queen bee to his genitalia and subsequently get a ton of bees stinging ... that part of his body, or when Knoxville does a "magic trick" that recalls one of his most famous and deadly stunts, the pain is a little less avoidable. (Knoxville's "magic trick" is quickly followed by a smash cut to him exiting a hospital, looking much the worse for wear.) "Jackass Forever" doesn't dawdle on these moments – it's too smart to get maudlin or sappy. But it's honest, both in its jaw-dropping stunts and in the impacts those stunts must-have. I just thank God that a movie this crazy exists. It's been a long time since a comedy has been this enormously, outrageously funny.

/Film Rating: 8.5 out of 10