3-D would seem tailor-made for the guys from “Jackass.”
When the technology is used for its funniest and most entertaining purposes, as it was recently in “Piranha 3-D,” it is all about the wild, gratuitous gimmicks. I do not need to be immersed in Pandora; I want stuff flung at me from the screen.
Johnny Knoxville and Co., who are constantly outdoing themselves with crazy and creative pranks and stunts, would seem to be just the right guys to do that sort of thing. But very little occurs in their latest movie, “Jackass 3D,” that would not have sufficed in 2-D.
Sure, there is an amusing and effective bit involving archery with a sex toy rather than an arrow. Steve-O and Dave England, dressed in nothing but furry bear hats and tighty-whities, play tetherball with a beehive, and it feels as if the worked-up insects are swarming around us, too. Wiener baseball, which is exactly what it sounds like, is good for a laugh because it is presented in artful slow motion (and man, is there a lot of penis in this movie).
But more often than not, this third installment in the franchise, directed as always by Jeff Tremaine, does not take full advantage of its visual potential. A Jet-Ski stunt Knoxville performs in a swimming pool, which is featured prominently in the trailers, is a bit of a letdown, for example. He and his buddies good-naturedly injure themselves by jumping into/over/on stuff using skateboards, motorcycles, wheelbarrows, you name it. It is their bread and butter; you’ve seen it countless times before.
Similarly, a lot of what goes on here is the typical let’s-see-what-happens silliness. Bam Margera has super-sticky glue squirted on his hands, places them on a couple of heavyset guys’ hairy chests (one of whom is his father, a frequent target of the group’s pranks and a good sport) and then does a little makeshift waxing. Knoxville (dressed in a Santa Claus suit) and another guy (dressed as an elf) climb a 40-foot (12-meter) tree in the snow, only to have it chopped down and go tumbling to the ground with it.
Of course, there is the scatological humor such as the pee-cam, which essentially consists of a guy sneaking up on people and urinating on them with the camera at crotch level. The “Poo Cocktail Supreme,” as it is called, features Steve-O in a portable toilet full of feces, being tossed into the air repeatedly by bungee cords. (You will be happy to know there is a camera inside the toilet, too, so you can see the full, majestic effect.) Maybe it is funny if you are a 12-year-old boy.
“Jackass 3D,” and the group’s entire oeuvre, if you will, is at its best when it is about these guys playing well-orchestrated tricks on each other and the world at large. The “High Five” gag off the top, a giant hand on garage-door springs that whaps people to the floor as they round a corner, is funny every time, especially when Margera gets it with big bags of flour attached. Getting reactions out of strangers always works: In the most effective example, Knoxville, wearing old-man makeup that makes him look like Ted Turner, makes out in public with a much younger girl who’s supposed to be his 19-year-old granddaughter.
The jokes they play involving animals are always hard to watch, though, because you feel so bad for these creatures. Some idiot is invading their pen or whatever just for a laugh, but the ram — or dog, or pig or donkey — always wins in the end with a swift and powerful kick or head-butt.
So maybe “Jackass” is about something after all. Maybe it is a cautionary tale, an age-old parable about man vs. nature. Or not.
“Jackass 3-D,” a Paramount Pictures release, is rated R for male nudity, extremely crude and dangerous stunts, and for language. Running time: 94 minutes. Two stars out of four.