Johnny Knoxville's latest film, out on DVD this week, was a surprise hit with critics and audiences alike
When an ad promoting Jackass 3D as an Oscar contender went viral during awards season, the response was understandably confusing: The idea that a film that opens with a giant, 3-D dildo hurtling towards audience members could be in the same league as The King's Speech seemed ludicrous. It was quickly revealed that ad was merely a clever marketing campaign for the release of the film's DVD and Blu-Ray, both of which come out today.
But ridiculous as the "For Your Consideration" ad seemed on the surface, the pseudo-documentary featuring Johnny Knoxville, Bam Margera, and their band of shameless, fearless minions won a surprising number of critical raves. Its "fresh" Rotten Tomatoes critics score was markedly higher than three of the five films that won Golden Globe nominations for Best Comedy (Alice in Wonderland, Burlesque, and The Tourist).
Less surprisingly, the movie was a hit with audiences, as well. Shot on a $20 million budget, the montage of port-o-potty catapults, games of beehive tetherball, and a litany of other gross-out gags and stunts earned nearly $120 million at the box office. The film was so successful that Paramount Pictures rushed an extended version into theaters, and has beefed up today's Blu-Ray release with 11 deleted scenes and 29 outtakes.
Even The Atlantic's James Parker had this to say about the gang's almost classic appeal:
Viewed critically and retrospectively, the show's genius stroke was to connect skater humor, which is violently lowbrow and absurdist (skaters love watching other skaters wipe out), to a slapstick tradition that went back to the rougher end of vaudeville, to Joe Keaton--Buster's father--doing his act "The Man With the Table" at Huber's Museum in New York City: crashing into the table, flying off the table, fervently and bodily intervening in the existence of the table. (Remember Steve-O jumping into his ceiling fan?) Maybe that's what they were in the end, the jackasses, under their Ritalin antics: hard-core vaudevillians. No narrative, minimal setup--"My name's Johnny Knoxville, and this is the poo cocktail!"--just one bone-breaking or atrociously humiliating skit after another. Gravity, if you like, was their straight man: the crunching comedown, the bathos of impact.
This past week it was announced that the film's stars—led by Knoxville—were cast alongside Willie Nelson in the upcoming film Mustache Riders. As the motley crew continues its most unlikely infiltration of mainstream Hollywood, Parker considers the effect they've already had on the entertainment landscape:
Celebrity bull-riding; the naked-wrestling scene in Borat; the huge audience that arose for the Ultimate Fighting Championship; Spike TV gladiators ringed by millions of distantly baying viewers in a Colosseum made of bong smoke: these were post-Jackass phenomena. Now there was a show on ABC called Wipeout, in which regular people in protective headgear were sent hooting and floundering through a surrealist obstacle course. Padded flails swept them off their feet, walls of boxing gloves jabbed at them. They bounced off massive red orbs: the famous Big Balls. No edge to it at all; it seemed to presage a democracy of jackass-hood, of cushioned jolts and pratfalls for everyone.
It's a testament to Jackass' most successful, under-the-radar stunt: "Hi, I'm Johnny Knoxville, and this is pop culture domination."
Read Parker's entire analysis of the Jackass phenomenon, "The Jackass Effect."