Comparatively, I still quite prefer Jackass 3D but it’s still interesting to look back reflectively on the Jackass phenomenon in order to see its evolution from really stupid idea to multi-million dollar franchise.
I think the main reason that I appreciate Jackass 3D more is because with Jackass: The Movie, much more of the comedy is based on the reactions of unwitting participants. Take the second stunt/prank/joke, for instance. In “Rent-A-Car Smash-Up Derby,” Johnny Knoxville rents a car, destroys it in a derby, nearly killing himself in the process, and then tries to return the vehicle. The derby itself is more concerning than funny, and Knoxville’s attempts to return the vehicle feel hollow, as the clerk handles the situation fairly calmly, and since you know that once the film is done rolling, someone is going to swoop in and make things right with the dealership. Hyuk, hyuk, hyuk.
Probably my least favourite (except for the really really unnecessary shot of Preston Lacey getting out of a hot tub in now-see through briefs) is the golf course air horn skit. In it, Johnny Knoxville and an accomplice try to throw off the swings of some golfers by blowing an air-horn mid stroke. I know we’re supposed to laugh as people get confused, then angry, but honestly, I found myself identifying more with the frustrated golfers than I did with the pranksters. It would certainly be a profoundly frustrating experience to have a game (that one might take quite seriously) interrupted and corrupted by a couple of guys whose enjoyment are being derived specifically from your inability to enjoy yourself. Sure, it’s important to be able to take a joke, but to have total strangers try to ruin your day so that they can have a few laughs is just bullying.
It may sound barbaric, but I prefer when the Jackass boys keep it in the family, so to speak. As long as they are pranking each other, or actively signing up to participate in each stunt, the underlying discomfort of laughing at someone’s misfortunes and discomfort goes away. Then again, on a couple of scary occasions, even that becomes uncomfortable.
For example, let’s talk about the golf cart stunt. In it, the boys destroy a miniature golf course by driving golf carts into various giant animals and obstacles. It’s funny enough until the last outrageous moment, when Johnny Knoxville’s cart flips over to the skit’s hugest laugh. Within seconds, however, you realize that not all is well and that Knoxville is not okay. Sure, he laughs about it, but at the time, he is hurt to a level that no longer forgives enjoyment of others’ self-misfortune.
There’s also a difference between a stunt with possible harmful implications, and downright self-mutilation. In one of the grosser (more gross?) skits, Johnny Knoxville, followed by Steve-O, allow others to give them paper cuts. Somehow, there is a difference between shooting somebody with a beanbag gun and somebody using a tool specifically to cut the skin of another human being. Sure, the harm is worse in the former, but it doesn’t have the tone of a bunch of guys sitting in a hotel room cutting each other.
I’ve really focussed on the negative over these last few paragraphs, and it isn’t to say that I didn’t enjoy the movie. I’ve complained about some of the fat I would like to see trimmed from the Jackass experience, but if they weren’t there, I would probably get bored of the same old stuff. At the end of the day, I still enjoyed the experience, but I am happier with where the franchise has moved onto.