Monday, March 14, 2011

Movie Review: Jackass 3

No, I didn’t mean “Jackass 3D”. We didn’t watch it that way, so I can’t honestly review it that way. Due to my eyes being weird, most kinds of video 3D don’t work for me. The dual-colored kind has never worked. I remember going to see Jaws 3D when I was young and just getting a headache. I had corrective surgery on my eyes when I was in high school (not to see 3D movies, there was a more significant issue) and thought that might help, but it didn’t. I got contact lenses after high school, but there was a dearth of 3D movies for several years and I didn’t have the opportunity to see if they helped before finally swearing off the damned things about ten years ago.
But then this whole silly Phantom Troublemaker thing came along. I have terrible vision and you can’t very well wear glasses under a luchadore mask.
Okay, well, I can’t wear glasses under a mask. So after consulting with the family ophthalmologist (or is that optometrist? I know it isn’t obstetrician) about new types of contact lenses I got new ones. And they’re great. Way better than the hard gas-permeable ones that caused me so many hours of misery all those years ago.
But they still don’t do anything for my perception of 3D on video. I’ve discussed it with the eye doctor and he is baffled. I don’t know whether that says more about my issue or his credentials. He seems pretty smart, so I’m guessing I just have a strange condition.
I was hopeful that maybe this new wave of post-Avatar 3D would work for me because I have had two successful experiences with 3D in theaters. The only problem is that they are the theaters in Walt Disney World that show It’s Tough to Be A Bug and The Muppets 4D Experience. I don’t know why those work, but they do. I haven’t actually gone to see one of the new 3D movies yet because I hardly ever have time to go to the movies anymore and I really don’t want to waste a trip on something that I can’t watch. I did look through the display glasses on one of the 3D TVs at Best Buy a few weeks ago and that didn’t work at all. My wife and son could both see it and the missus said it was amazing. Oh, well. I just look at it as a grand or so I’m not going to have to spend on a new TV; and also something that will probably drive the prices down on regular HDTVs.
Oh, sorry. Were you wondering about Jackass 3? Well, hang in there. Now I’ve got to spend who knows how long talking about my views on Jackass in general.

I absolutely love Jackass and everybody responsible for it. I can’t say for sure when I started watching or at what point it became so dear to me, but I specifically remember seeing Steve-O eat that goldfish and thinking it was the keyboard player from my old band. The guy looks a lot like Steve-O. I think that was the first Jackass I saw. I remember “Poo Cocktail” from MTV and being shocked that they could show it.
I was there opening night for the first movie. It was shocking and appalling and still one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen in my life. I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve watched it. The first Jackass movie is one of my go-to pick-me-up movies. The first thing I did after the flood (and after we finally had some kind of downtime) was watch every bit of Jackass we had on DVD. It helped. I was able to sleep well that night for the first time in weeks.


Sometime between the first and second movies I came across the CKY DVDs. If you don’t know, these are collections of videos that Bam Margera, Ryan Dunn, Brandon DiCamillo, Raab Himself, Rake Yohn and others put together before there ever was a Jackass. The CKY stuff is much more low-fi and – believe it or not – disgusting than Jackass. The bit with Ryan Dunn swimming in the sewage treatment basin is actually from CKY originally. Actually, the primary theme of most of these early video experiments is poo. Raab Himself shits a lot. Like, maybe even more than Dave England.
Bam and company also made a movie called Haggard. And I mean an actual movie with a story and cinematography and a score, not just a collection of bits and sketches. It isn’t terrible and if you like Jackass and that portion of the guys you should probably check it out. Ryan Dunn is the protagonist and actually does some “acting” in the movie. He was good enough in it that I’ve often wondered why he hasn’t shown up in anything else.
Another awesome thing that happened between the first two movies was that we got two great new shows starring Jackass alumni. Viva La Bam featured the same crew as the CKY videos doing pretty much the same stuff (though more TV-friendly), but with themes for each episode, like building a treetop casino or having a scavenger hunt. It just occurred to me that Viva La Bam is like a grown-up Phineas & Ferb. It basically has the same storytelling format: “I know what we’re going to do today!”, then they build something and have related adventures. Actually, scratch that – Phineas & Ferb is far more sophisticated than Viva La Bam. If you never watched Viva La Bam and can tolerate Bam Margera you should check it out.
Viva La Bam’s follow-up show – Bam's Unholy Union – wasn’t quite as good. It wasn’t bad, but I didn’t run out and buy the DVD or anything. There’s only so much funny to be had from nuptials if you’re not Steve Martin. Also, Union barely featured Brandon DiCamillo at all. I see this as a huge problem.
Another good great amazing thing we got between the movies was Wildboyz. It’s one of my favorite shows of all time and I’m not going to cover it too much right now because I’m planning on a full write-up next time I watch the DVDs. It’s just that good.
Wildboyz followed Chris Pontius and Steve-O all over the world in a Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom format. The pair were accompanied by self-proclaimed nature expert and complete idiot Manny Puig (himself the star of a great DVD); who was always ready with entirely fictional information about any animal the show’s crew might encounter. And they encountered a lot. Pontius and Steve-O would spend each half hour exploring a certain region’s culture, animals and environment; from the bayous of Louisiana to the plains of Africa to the frozen tundra of (somewhere cold), the boys were always there in their thongs (or less) to be stupid and do stupid things.
There were times when Bam’s show was just too flashy and superficial and planned to feel entirely like it was straight out of the Dickhouse. Wildboyz is the real shit – Jackass with a purpose (sort of). It’s one of the most honest, genuine shows I’ve ever watched and you can see the love and devotion that went into every minute of it, not to mention how exhausting that devotion must have been. Well, that and the drugs.

Which brings me to Steve-O. Steve-O has his own series of DVDs that – while entertaining – are without fail darker and more disturbing than anything the rest of the Dickhouse folks have put out. Steve-O is hilarious and engaging, but the whole drug thing puts such a tragic edge on everything you see. There are moments that are uncomfortable to watch and segments that probably should have never been filmed, much less happened. I don’t want to use the sad clown metaphor, but there is nothing more apt for the Steve-O in these DVDs. There is such a clear difference between when he’s just having a good time and when he’s going to extremes just to get away from something.
I admit – I didn’t know about the depths of Steve-O’s drug problem when I watched his first couple of DVDs. I just knew there was something different about them. Steve-O on his own was more like a documentary than just a bunch of guys goofing off. Like I said, these were darker. But still funny as shit.
Jackass 2 came out in 2006 and I was there on opening night with Mrs. Troublemaker to see it. The sequel was even more disgusting and funny than the first one, despite the groups’ celebrity working against things. They were all famous and recognizable by the time the second movie was being filmed, so pranks on regular citizens were pretty much out. The crew made up for it by destroying each other.
Jackass 2 is what made me love Dave England and Danger Ehren. They really got to do more in this one and in a way stand out more than the other guys. Part of it might be that Bam, Knoxville and the rest had been so overexposed at that point that England and Danger Ehren almost seemed like new faces. New faces covered with pubic hair. I didn’t like the last bit in the move the first time I saw it. I thought it was too long and just not funny enough to be the finale. I have since changed my mind. That cab ride and subsequent shootout gets funnier every time I watch it.
I hate to read subtext into the juvenile antics of this bunch of retards, but the finale of Jackass 2 is almost like a statement; or a lesson to the people. One of the big feelings you get from watching Jackass is wishing you were there. Or maybe even wishing you had a group of buddies that you could do those things with or spend that kind of time around. To anybody who has ever thought those things the ending serves as a reminder of reality – “This is what we do to our friends; this is what happens when you’re here for it.”
And after 1,700 scintillating words I can finally get to Jackass 3.

I didn’t get to see this one in the theater because things change. Nowadays my equivalent to seeing something opening night in the movie theater is rushing out and buying it or watching it on OnDemand on the home release date. I have enough faith in the Jackass brand name to buy something without seeing it, so I went to Target and picked up the Blu-Ray/3D DVD version.
Lil’ Troublemaker fell asleep while I was gone, so the wife and I actually got to watch the movie as soon as I got home. Sometimes it takes us weeks to watch an entire movie if it’s something we both want to see (and she didn’t get to see the end of this one).
The first thing I want to mention is that this movie looks beautiful in Hi Definition. You might be tempted to save a few bucks and get the DVD - because how clearly do you need to see Chris Pontius’ dick, really? – but I think the Blu-Ray is a must-have if you’re able. There are so many vibrant colors and outdoor locations; not to mention the proliferation of footage shot using the amazing Phantom camera at 1,000 FPS. Seriously, the slow-motion stuff alone makes the extra couple of bucks worthwhile. In a very odd way, Jackass 3D is kind of… beautiful.
I’m not going to get into the individual segments because you should get to enjoy the “What the fuck are they going to do next?” feel that a new Dickhouse project always creates, but the above sentence leads me to the overall feel of this movie. It’s positive. And fun. And silly. This bunch of guys is having the best time ever (except maybe for Bam at one point) doing what they love. And there is also an element of redemption in this ridiculous film. Nobody who knows anything about Jackass went into this movie without wondering about Steve-O.
In between the second and third movies, Steve-O hit rock bottom. There was an anniversary special that aired on MTV and Steve-O was in such bad condition that he could barely talk. I had grown to love all these Jackass guys to the extent that you love favorite celebrity types (not in the same way that I love Jessica Biel or Bruce Campbell, though) and I was really concerned about the guy. I told my wife I didn’t think he had much longer if somebody didn’t do something. There was a documentary about exactly what happened and it is tough to watch. His drug use and behavior got out of control; to the point where he found out who his real friends are. It turns out that these assholes, these ridiculous clowns that beat each other up, torture one another and must only be hanging out for the money; those jerks really do care about that guy. Knoxville, Pontius, Jeff Tremaine and some of the other guys show up and stage an intervention and that shit made me cry. Through the interviews you can see that they were in denial about how bad things were and that it was tearing them up that they let Steve-O’s condition get as bad as it did.
But Steve-O went into rehab and recovered. And has supposedly been absolutely clean since then. Now, I know we’ve all seen that before. And when I said everybody was wondering about Steve-O going into Jackass 3, they were wondering “Is he really still clean and/or is he still funny?”
The answer to both is yes. The latter can obviously be determined from watching the movie, but the former can as well. Steve-O looks like an entirely different person. He looks alive. It’s amazing to compare before and after. The guy is healthy and clearly enjoying being alive, and that’s part of what makes Jackass 3 such a bright and fun movie. We both commented on Steve-O’s health and happiness through the movie, but I didn’t quite make the connection in the difference in tone until watching the special features. (Jeff Tremaine) pointed out how the film was less violent and dark than the second one and that it was because everybody was rallying around Steve-O and his good health and spirits.
So now I’ll finish with the special features.
4 out of 5 Donkey Kicks to Danger Ehren’s Junk

Until next time, stay creepy
-Phantom

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