As one does not simply walk into Mordor, one does not simply review Jackass Forever without context. These movies and television show are the definition of “Not for everyone.” If there’s any story arc that links these films, it’s all what has happened offscreen. One of the members has passed away. Another, involved with litigation with Johnny Knoxville and the rest of the crew.
Time has passed since the third film, and people age. Wild stunts done in youth cannot be replicated once people hit their fifties. And yet, Jackass still endures, because men are dumb and we still laugh at dumb shit.
And every review will likely have to come with a rejoinder, because the only way to judge Jackass Forever‘s quality is to examine it from the prism of its history, and the only way to do that is to, well, love Jackass enough to watch it. Because, as I said, it’s sure not for everyone.
I wasn’t very loyal with the show when it first aired; like anyone with a threshold for taste and decorum, I thought the idea behind the show was idiotic. You have to remember, this was the Beavis and Butthead era, where years of watching animated doofuses do stupid crap on television was eventually going to be copied in real life. And, if people are going to copy it anyway, why not have MTV cameras there?
And thus, Jackass was born. Something interesting happened though – yes, these guys were juvenile and offensive, but an odd poignancy crept in between the scenes of ball-smashing and the farts and the utterly stupid rocket stunts. These guys were funny. Not only funny, but celebratory about it.
Speaking strictly as a dude, we’ve all been 12. We’ve all laughed at things that many (mostly women) found stupid. It’s very hard to put into words, but it’s a part of the journey. Eventually we’re all going to be responsible people, with jobs, bills, worries – Jackass celebrates those times when we’re just hanging out with our buds, trying to make each other laugh in the most extreme ways possible. There’s something beautifully bonding about that.
So – is Jackass Forever, in that context, any good? Now that the crew are in their fifties, do Johnny Knoxville, Steve-O, Chris Pontius, Wee Man, Ehren McGhehey, and Preston Lacy go gentle into that good night? Lord no.
Speaking as a fan, I missed Bam Margera, but maybe not for the reasons he may hope for. Margera often was the “bad guy,” messing with his parents and the other Jackass members an ungodly amount, and when he got his comeuppance on the show it was satisfying and hilarious to watch. He’s not here this time, so much of the cruel pranks lie on Knoxville to execute and seeing these guys writhe in pain just isn’t as funny as it used to be.
There are younger members now, fans and women who have been behind the scenes, but I can’t imagine that this is a mantle that anyone’s going to carry forward. It’s very obvious that Johnny Knoxville is done with some of the more elaborate stunts – his encounter with the bull this time puts him in the emergency room and it’s a bit disconcerting hearing Knoxville, with grey hair and slurred speech, tell the camera that he can’t remember anything that happened.
Knoxville was always the one who wanted to be the stunt guy, and the fact is that he’s just too old to do them anymore.
So what that does to the movie is that Jackass Forever is less reliant on stunts and more on pranks, and more on the scatological and testicular damage these guys inflict on each other. Yes, Rachel Wolfson does take some pranks on herself (there’s a moment of topical hilarity as one of the Jackass guys asks Rachel for permission to touch her chest, but only to swat at a giant scorpion that was nesting there), but for the most part, it’s all about humiliating the guys, and Knoxville, perhaps not able to do the action bits that he wants, is happy taking it out on the rest of them.
The end result is that Jackass Forever feels a bit crueler than previous entries, and maybe it’s my age catching up with me, but it just didn’t hit me as funny as it once did.
Probably the greatest prank of the film, involving Ehren, some honey and salmon, and a very interested bear, had me rolling. That McGhehey is a trooper. Watching these guys fly through the air, get punched by air bags, dodging paint balls and explosions just doesn’t seem to have the joy that it once did – perhaps it’s the pandemic, or just the way the world has changed these past 12 years, but I’m happy to consign these guys to the rocking chair at this point.
That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy Jackass Forever immensely, because I did. Watching everything through my fingers, gagging and laughing, I thought this is definitely a film to be enjoyed with like-minded friends. But I also thought, I might enjoy a movie just as much with these guys hanging out, talking about their adventures, at a barbeque or something. At some point, sadly, you have to take off the nipple clamps.