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Friday, October 15, 2010

Late-Night/Early-Morning Thoughts on "Jackass 3-D"

Posted by on Fri, Oct 15, 2010 at 3:11 AM

In 1971, performance artist Chris Burden had himself shot in the arm. In 1974, Burden was crucified on the top of a Volkswagen bug.

Also in 1974, Marina Abramovic installed herself in a gallery with 72 objects that people could use to manipulate her (scissors, a whip, a gun with a bullet) and was shocked (shocked!) when people took her up on her offer: "I felt really violated: they cut my clothes, stuck rose thorns in my stomach, one person aimed the gun at my head, and another took it away."

In 1999, a struggling artist and writer named Johnny Knoxville invented the idea of Jackass, in which he and a group of friends would make Burden and Abramovic look like amateurs: Knoxville and company would get shot with guns, then get stung by wasps, then ride their skateboards into walls, then be dropped from stupid heights. MTV won a bidding war for the rights to produce the TV show.

The show was okay, as was the first Jackass movie—just the guys figuring out their calibration between pop culture, Caligula-worthy S&M, and the history of performance art. But the 2006 film Jackass Number Two raised the stakes a thousandfold, making pikers not only of Burden and Abramovic, but of the Jackass franchise as it had been known so far.

Though they never claimed to be "performance artists," Knoxville and company contributed heavily to the field. They staged a running of the bulls in a suburban neighborhood; allowed their cocks to be attacked by snakes (the symbolism! the irony!); launched themselves off ramps in shopping carts equipped with rocket-launchers (the best critique of runaway consumerism before or since—and I'm looking at you, Jan Fabre, and your stupid stage picture of women in shopping carts giving birth to rolls of toilet paper).

In the film's coup de grace, actor Steve-O shoved a giant fishhook through his cheek (which was attached to a fishing rod) and went swimming with sharks, using himself as bait.

Narratives that climax in extreme pain are the narratives we remember: the Oresteia, the New Testament, Hamlet. The Jackass concept was Western narrative on rocket-propelled roller skates. While violence and pain is the peak of any given story in the Western tradition, Jackass created a story where violence and pain were the baselines—its dramatic tension was built entirely out of pain-peaks but still had to peak somewhere. After folding in the cultural commentary (bulls in suburbia, snakes-on-snakes, a man fishing with his own body as bait), Jackass Number Two became a multifaceted jewel of populist performance art. (Plus, Lieberman hated it—to its credit.)

But Jackass 3-D doesn't push this project anywhere. It may be the most conservative Jackass yet. Its crew—some are parents now, some have gone around the bend and then gotten sober (when Johnny Knoxville orchestrates your intervention, you know you have problems), and some seem saggy and haggard. Its stunts are thin. Its sap has run dry. Where Jackass Number Two was an apotheosis of bodily sacrifice in the name of cultural commentary, Jackass 3-D is just guys getting socked in the nuts.

None of its moments rise to the level of art, but a few reach towards art criticism: a slow-motion shot of a dildo fired from a cannon and slamming through a glass of milk (and, of course, eventually hitting a man's face) recalls Harold Edgerton's photographs of a bullet piercing an apple. A fartiste plays the trumpet with his asshole and fires a dart at a balloon like Le Petomane. Knoxville climbs a pole and a dog bites his ass (perhaps a Joseph Beuys reference?). One of the film's videographers pukes repeatedly (when Steve-O drinks a glass of sweat, when Steve-O installs himself in a Honey Bucket full of dog shit and is slung around by bungee cords, and one or two other times).

Jackass 3-D has a few poetic images. One guy pisses in the wind—the wind being the exhaust of a jet engine that not only showers the guy with his own piss, but sends him flying backwards ass over teakettle. One scene has a Marquis de Sade human-torture-machine, in which two dudes jump off a platform, land on a lever that launches another dude into the air, where he is shot at by other dudes with paint-ball guns.

But Jackass 3-D does not improve on Jackass Number Two. The latter was an epic of bored dudes getting bruised and bloody to makes jokes about (and show up the heroes of) art history. The former is, at its heart, just a souped-up game of grab-ass.

The air has gone out of the whoopee cushion.


Comments (22) RSS

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Rev. Adam McKinney 1
Love this review. However sincere you may or may not be, Brendan, I totally buy it. I've always appreciated the Jackass guys as kind-of-brilliant gonzo filmmakers and chaos-makers. I had a feeling that the third might disappoint, but there's no way I won't see it.

Posted by Rev. Adam McKinney on October 15, 2010 at 5:07 AM · Report this
Vince 2
The face plants bother me, having worked in emergency rooms, but anything having to do with penis or ass is entertainment at it's adolescent best!
Posted by Vince on October 15, 2010 at 6:50 AM · Report this
scary tyler moore 3
you always this highfalutin' at 3am?
Posted by scary tyler moore on October 15, 2010 at 7:06 AM · Report this
Womyn2me 4
It does seem rather well thought out for a 3am SLOG posting.
Posted by Womyn2me http://http:\\ on October 15, 2010 at 7:13 AM · Report this
chicagogreg 5
Deep critique, impressive! I always thought the Jackass movies were solely adolescent, which is why I liked them so much. Says a lot about me, I guess.
Posted by chicagogreg on October 15, 2010 at 7:28 AM · Report this
Worst. Review. Ever.

Kiley, you need to stop hanging out with Mudede. Apparently asinine pretentiousness is catching.
Posted by jambalaya on October 15, 2010 at 7:47 AM · Report this
Rotten666 7
That's too bad. I'll sneak out and see it anyway.
Posted by Rotten666 on October 15, 2010 at 7:54 AM · Report this
Original-er Andy 8
"In 1999, a struggling artist and writer named Johnny Knoxville invented the idea of Jackass, in which he and a group of friends would make Burden and Abramovic look like amateurs..."

Guess you haven't heard of Landspeed CKY.
Posted by Original-er Andy on October 15, 2010 at 8:10 AM · Report this
Tracy 9
My understanding is that Jackass 3D is compiled of leftover footage from shooting #2. Nothing new has been done in years, and these were stunts that had ended on the cutting room floor, now in 3D for an extra $5.
Posted by Tracy on October 15, 2010 at 9:03 AM · Report this
ragold 10
It's nice to hear Andrew WK again. He may be the closest thing to Meat Loaf we have.
Posted by ragold on October 15, 2010 at 9:10 AM · Report this
But is it funny?
Posted by kersy on October 15, 2010 at 9:44 AM · Report this
@ 4. Between the alcoholic blackouts, I slide into occasional streaks of clarity. Late-night writing is all about timing and rhythm.

@ 8. I have, in fact. But there was no time to dig into that. I had some pretentiousness to get to!

@ 11. Not really. Not nearly as funny as #2.
Posted by Brendan Kiley on October 15, 2010 at 9:55 AM · Report this
SPG 13
#8 is exactly right. The Landspeed and CKY (Camp Kill Yourself) videos made by a young Bam Margera (along with a few other people including Matt Damon's cousin) were the beginning. Spike Jonze who got his start as a skateboarding photographer showed it to MTV who then used a lot of the CKY stuff to create Jackass.
Posted by SPG on October 15, 2010 at 10:02 AM · Report this
And credit to the original "bullet through the apple" photographer Harold Edgerton (inventor of giant, record fast, strobes from way back).
Posted by harold fan on October 15, 2010 at 10:06 AM · Report this
Who is David Mansfield?

Didn't Harold Edgerton take the famous bullet/apple photo?
Posted by mitterand on October 15, 2010 at 10:22 AM · Report this
Will in Seattle 16

nobody cares about this crap anymore. Just go kill yourself and stop filming it so the rest of us can ignore you.
Posted by Will in Seattle on October 15, 2010 at 10:26 AM · Report this
@ 14 and 15. Fixed. Thanks.
Posted by Brendan Kiley on October 15, 2010 at 10:39 AM · Report this
Chris Burden did a piece where he lay strapped to a gurney in an elevator with a sign that said "Please push pins into my body." There was a box of thumbtacks next to him.

Only eight people took him up on it. Nowadays he'd probably end up exsanguinated.
Posted by dwight moody on October 15, 2010 at 11:43 AM · Report this
McGee 19
16 Heed your own advice you four-eyed shit-pile.
Posted by McGee on October 15, 2010 at 1:38 PM · Report this
Wow. Can you tell me The Stuntman starring Peter O'Toole is about?

Or maybe do Porky's next.
Posted by Picking Through Lion Dung I Found Bits of Lamb on October 15, 2010 at 3:21 PM · Report this
@ 9 - Saw Johnny Knoxville on the Daily Show earlier this week, and he mentioned that they had to hire an entire new film crew because they were filming in 3-D for the first time, so I'm assuming it's at least mostly new footage.
Posted by skycrashesdown on October 15, 2010 at 7:43 PM · Report this
and one or two other times

Are you talking about the "Pig Eating an apple out of an ass" scene?

If they had a version of this that didn't have all the gross-out humor, I'd probably be down. I'm with Doug Benson on that - when you describe it to someone it sounds like the funniest shit in the world, and when you see it, it's just uncomfortable.
Posted by j.lee on November 5, 2010 at 4:43 PM · Report this

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