What 'Jackass 3D' Means for Society

Apart from presenting the first 3D fart-powered paper party whistle

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Sure, we may go see it, but is anyone dying to see Jackass 3D? It's been ten years now that Johnny Knoxville and co. have been electrocuting their testicles, shooting fecal-matter projectiles at each other, and doing any imaginable stunt to shock their audience. At the height of their powers, arguably 2006's Jackass 2, they were once described by The New York Times as the "most fearless, liberated and cathartic comedy in modern movies...the Surrealists would have loved these guys." By now, their influence has been debated, mocked, and even praised by movie critics.  Can they still conjure up that sort of sentiment?

  • Whether They Know It or Not, They're Exploring 'Surrealist Terrain' points out Manohla Dargis at The New York Times. Filmmaker Luis "Buñuel extolled Surrealism partly for its 'aggressive morality based on the complete rejection of all existing values.' The Surrealists were responding to church and state, among other forces, while here the guys are reacting to, well, someone sticking something in the nearest hole. But the men’s raucously playful, uninhibited and affectionate engagement with one another’s habitually unclothed bodies can seem like a spit in the face (and elsewhere) to the outside world’s homophobia."
  • Their Madness Mimics Dalí, Cronenberg and Buñuel  Rolling Stone's Peter Travers observes that the "stunts evoked the surrealist art of Salvador Dalí and the film experiments of Luis Buñuel (Jackass Number Two name-checks Buñuel's Un Chien Andalou, which showed a woman's eye being sliced by a razor) and David Cronenberg (look carefully at Scanners, Videodrome and Naked Lunch). Better yet, they evoked man's need to climb mountains, jump off cliffs, swim with sharks and laugh at fear."
  • The World Has Changed Since They Arrived. 'The Jackasses Themselves Had Changed It.'  "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," praises The Atlantic's James Parker in a magazine profile. Jackass was one of the first "connect skater humor, which is violently lowbrow and absurdist...to a slapstick tradition that went back to the rougher end of vaudeville."
  • 'Comedy Pared Down To Its Barest Essence' finds Variety's Justin Chang. "There's a certain purity to the way these jokers relentlessly pursue their oral/anal fixations, and their eagerness to degrade themselves is curiously ennobling. The troupe's likability goes a long way toward making it all go down easy; even their socially transgressive stunts, as when Knoxville dons his familiar dirty-old-man prosthetics, never approach Sacha Baron Cohen levels of mean-spirited anarchy."
  • Why Are They So Oddly Transcendent? wonders Drew McWeeny at HitFlix, who then answers his own query: "Anyone can do a physical stunt, but these guys always build a context around the joke that takes it two or three steps beyond." Also, "I think it's because we've watched these guys get older without growing up one little bit, and since we can't all get away with that, there is a freedom and, yes, a beauty to watching someone else pull it off. Every time the cast of "Jackass" gets kicked in the balls, remember that. They're taking that nut shot for you. And I hope they keep doing it until Knoxville doesn't need old man make-up anymore."

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