by Thomas Harris
There’s a five-minute sequence in Jackass Forever that exists almost entirely as if to argue the resilience of the penis. Ehren McGhehey – the whipping boy of whipping boys – tests a cup against a series of ever-escalating situations.
Prior to this, Chris Pontius – a man with whom his penis is indelibly attached to his onscreen persona – gets his member squashed between two plastic sheets for the sole purpose that it would enable him to use it as a table tennis bat.
This is without acknowledging the opening sequence, or a sequence involving a troubling amount of bees…really Jackass Forever is the crowning achievement of dick humour.
And it’s joyous; a pure celebration of grandiose idiocy, of watching very funny people doing very stupid things often with their johnson.
There are no pretensions to it. It never wants to be something highfalutin, it’s only a series of increasingly dumb bits packaged as cinema. That’s all there is to it, no plot, no narrative through lines, only bits.
And boy, do those bits hit (often very literally). Any concerns that the previous decade would see a growth in maturity are quashed within moments. Bodies are thrown, bruised and beaten with aplomb, Wee-Man almost gets his pecker gnawed at by a vulture, a fifty-one-year-old man accidentally shits himself after forcing out a fart while dressed as the Silver Surfer, there’s a lot of pig semen.
There may not be something that reaches the pure glee of “The High-Five” from Jackass 3D – which may be the genuine pinnacle of on-screen comedy, and it’s sequel segment is maybe the only duff stunt in a film with few – but it doesn’t matter. And the film never stops, it pummels you with bit after bit, never taking a real breather as if stopping will force the audience to question the moral worth of watching Johnny Knoxville, a man in his fifties, take a monumental hit by a bull.
Yet, there is something genuinely moving about Jackass Forever. Ryan Dunn sadly died in 2011 whilst Bam Margera, one of the original poster boys, is only seen momentarily due to legal issues surrounding substance abuse. Their absence brings a palpable sense of loss to the film, something a montage of Dunn’s greatest hits comes to remind us as it comes to a close.
More so in watching these people still interact with one another and find such joy in what they do. Spending time watching Jackass Forever feels like spending time with old friends. They may have been away for 10 years, but it’s uncanny how little has changed.
Being able to revisit these people every decade brings with it a sense of comfort, and with it may be the only thing it can be compared to is Michael Apted’s “Up” series (please bear with me). We have watched these people grow older, we have followed their personal lives from film to film; watching Steve-O go from addict to sober, Bam’s sad descent the other way. It’s difficult to genuinely convey the pure joy of hearing Knoxville again say “welcome to Jackass,” or watch Dave England – a man who looks still like a teenager who had a bad run-in with Zoltar – simply wear a yellow cardigan and threaten to go to the toilet. These man-children bring with them pure joy, the sort you feel like a child watching Jackass for the first time.
Whilst modern movie studios are fixated on fabricating these emotions (the MCU an impressive, if albeit callous, example of this), Jackass manages to achieve this without an ounce of cynicism.
Tony Stark film-to-film “grows”, as does Captain America (look, he has a beard), or Thor is goofy now. And they play the audience to a key and that’s fair emotional manipulation. But oddly I found myself more emotionally invested in seven grown-men chugging milk and jumping onto a spinning fairground attraction than I did coming to the end of Endgame.
It’s strange to find comfort in grown men abusing each other, but leaving the cinema, I found myself re-centred. The outside world, any concerns I had disappeared whilst watching Jackass Forever, and these feelings will come flooding back if they happen to decide to come back in another decade. Jackass Forever is joyous, and we should be thankful for its very being.
Jackass Forever is in cinemas now!