If you haven’t seen Jackass Number Two, yet, because you think it’s too stupid, or you’re too sophisticated for such low-brow trailer-trash humor, you’re missing out on something great. Oh it’s exactly what you think it is, and less — there’s no argument here for artistry or any other socially redeeming quality — far from it. Seeing Steve O take a beer enema and Bam Margera plunge it out of his butt with a plumber’s helper is not going to make you a better person. No sir. But it will make you laugh your ass off.
A surprising number of mainstream film reviewers have given the Jackass crew kudos for their latest collection of stunts — the guy in the New York Times went so far as to invoke an esthetic parallel to Dadaism in the absurd performances the boys engage in. Yeh well, we’re very impressed with your education New York Times Guy, but this ain’t Dada. If anything it’s vaudeville, with a good old fashioned dose of travelling carnival side show — and that’s what makes it so easy to enjoy. You can turn your head off as soon as the opening credits roll and just sit back and marvel at the insane set pieces rolling out, one after another.
It’s a little like being back on your grammar school playground watching guys engaging in competitive gross outs — there’s an endearing quality to the simple kid-like way they present their stunts: they usually start them by introducing themselves and then giving the title of the stunt, “I’m Steve O and this is the Fart Mask”. Like kids, they want to impress you with what they are willing to do, but they also want to impress each other with how far they can push their limits. And the stunts themselves go beyond what any kid could imagine. I’m not even going to talk about “How to Milk a Horse.”
I’m amazed by the level of commitment these guys bring to their work. They’re entertainers in the truest sense of the word because all that matters is the integrity of the bit. Their honor comes in doing it right: there’s one stunt early in the movie where they’ve rigged one of those carnival gizmos that you hit with a hammer to make a weight fly up and ring a bell — except Bam Margera is supposed to hang his bare ass over the top and get hit in the balls by the weight. Margera protests that it should really be a big golden dildo that flies up into his anus. So they do that and it’s hilarious. I was listening to see how many guys in the audience were laughing at the sight (not too many). Like I said, commitment to the bit.
Some reviews have referred to the Jackass crew as “Merry Pranksters”, alluding to Ken Kesey and his crowd of self-involved counter culty acid freaks from the 60’s. Nothing could be farther from the mark. These guys aren’t “counter culture”, they’re not protesting anything. They’re entertainers and their work is completely self-contained. We know nothing about them before or after the stunt. All I know about Johnny Knoxville is that he likes to get drunk and have people kick him in the nuts. What else do I need to know?