Directed by: Jeff Tremaine
Distributed by: Paramount Pictures
Written by Taylor Baker
“Jackass Forever” is a lot of things, an evolution of cast, a “Covid-19” film, the hardest I’ve laughed in a theater in years (at least since the aughts became the twenties), and the most filmicly complete entry in the “Jackass” series since it’s inception in the late ‘90s. Johnny Knoxville called long time collaborator and said something along the lines of “Hey Jeff (Tremaine, the director of every Jackass film) you wanna make another movie?” In a roundtable aired after the special fan screening I attended, Jeff said his reaction to the call was something to the effect of, “Why the hell not?” which seems like as fitting a reason as any film you and your friends getting shocked, bucked, and bit. The addition of new cast members Zach Holmes, Jasper Dolphin, Rachel Wolfson, and Sean ‘Poopies’ McInerey seems like such an obviously smart choice. It’s odd that bringing in new blood to the cast hadn’t dawned on Knoxville or someone on the team (like Spike Jonze) sooner, but then again this last 10 year period was the longest the team had gone without sustaining any significant brain or bodily injuries to make a film (excluding Knoxville).
The DIY nature of the gonzo filmmaking that we’re all used to had to be adapted and improvised on. There were fewer opportunities to pull hijinks, stunts, and pranks in public; because of Covid-19, which happened to delay this film’s release not just three but four times. This constraint of being unable to do more public-centered gags and pieces led to innovation by Knoxville and the team. Bringing more guests like P.K. Subban, Danielle O’Toole, and Jalen Ramsey in for stunts, and pranking the team more. One of which you’ve doubtlessly seen dozens of times over the past two years as the trailer has played in theaters in which Ehren McGhehey is strapped to a chair for a lie detector test only to have salmon thrown on his crotch and honey poured over him as a bear saunters into the room while Knoxville and crew shuffle out.
It’s fun if not funny to draw lines of cinematic history to the occurrence of “Jackass”, especially this entry which is perhaps its definitive edition. Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin are easy sells sure, men who picked up a camera put themselves in front of it and did something physically risky and frequently comedic that made people pay attention and often audibly react. With oo’s, ahh’s, sighs, or laughs. The same easy correlation can be made to “The Three Stooges”. But in the last few months, there’s been a resurgence of appreciation for the physical comedy, writing, and leadership talents of Lucille Ball, from the perspective of renowned screenwriter turned mediocre director Aaron Sorkin in the film “Being the Ricardos” to multi-hyphenate Amy Poehler’s documentary “Lucy and Desi”. Each of these films underlines the impact on the culture, the film and television industry, and lives of every American that Lucy had. And it’s through those convincing arguments that I can’t quite shake the idea that Knoxville might not have gotten the train of “Jackass” going without the far-reaching ripples that Ball’s career cast as an actor, writer, producer, and all-around badass. Paving the way for these jackasses to get hit in the nuts, turn Chris Pontius’s dick into Godzilla, and test whether or not Ehren’s cup can stand up to the punching strength of Francis Ngannou, the UFC Heavyweight Champion of the world.
But that’s a lot of chin-stroking for a film flaunting pressed dick ping pong, a line to the effect of “That’s pig semen? But I’m vegetarian!”, and something referred to as “the Silence of the Lambs scene” which had my theater rolling side to side in their reclined seats crying with laughter and muttering curse words for its entirety. “Jackass Forever” is nostalgic, silly, and totally sincere, while it is arguably a film that’s historically more important than it seems. Even if you’re resistant to that interpretation I can confidently tell you and anyone you know that’s ever laughed at Pontius in a thong, Steve-O doing a snooty, or Knoxville getting injured to go see this movie, it’ll make your cheeks hurt.
Jackass Forever Trailer
“Jackass Forever” is in wide theatrical release.
You can follow more of Taylor’s thoughts on film on Letterboxd, Twitter, and Rotten Tomatoes.