Eye For Film >> Movies >> Jackass 2 (2006) Film Review
Reviewed by: Chris
Male bonding tends to be pretty basic - shared physical activity with maybe a dash of toilet humour. The Jackass team take this to an extreme level. Firstly, horrifically dangerous stunts, often as practical jokes on each other. Add to that jolliness that makes American Pie look like polite chit-chat with the vicar. In a variety of locations - with no connecting story - Jackass succeeds in raising the lowest common denominator to a palpably frightening, disgusting and hilarious level. Try these tricks at home and you might not only risk killing yourself but get arrested if you survive.
As the film opens, a group of men are running down a street with wild abandon. Are they celebrating? Drunk? No - as the camera pans back we see they are being chased by a herd of wild bulls. They eventually get tossed about by them and seem to positively enjoy the pain. And that's quite mild. The film soon progresses to such things as rocket-powered shopping trolleys and drinking horse semen.
We see a man's penis dressed up as a glove puppet mouse introduced into the cage of a snake with big teeth, being moved on a string to tease the snake until it chomps on it. Later, in a reality-TV type gag, very large snakes bloody a couple of the cast. In 'man-bait', the team go 'fishing' for sharks, using one of their own on the end of line, a fish-hook having been inserted excruciatingly through his cheek.
They will stop at nothing, it seems, in search of dangerous gags that are comic, beating each other up by playing dodgeball in the dark with medicine balls, or trapping each other with nasty wild animals. John Waters has a brilliant cameo as a magician, making a dwarf disappear in an agonising way. Spike Jonze freaks out passers-by dressed as a nonagenarian woman who 'accidentally' exposes herself.
Jackass Number Two stages all these quite well, but is on shakier ground over a number of gags involving err... 'number twos' - which are admittedly more gross but less well-staged than in similar but fictional toilet-humour films like American Pie. Some of the gags, such as the terrorist-in-a-cab sketch, seem a little self-indulgent. However, Jackass Number Two still provoked frequent howls of laughter from the (male) members of the audience at the press screening, even though I hang my head in shame to admit I was one of them.
This is a sick film but, on its own level, well executed. The editing is sharp and many of the laughs are unpredictable. Johnny Knoxville is endlessly amusing in his testosterone-filled persona and if anything is faked (other than things like Spike Jonze's breasts) it isn't very apparent. The budget - and their own ingenuity - seem to have allowed them to construct a film that is an improvement on their earlier similar efforts, and the directing is tight enough to ensure it doesn't over-run its welcome.
What they claim as 'the film's greatest gag' - whereby one of them pretends to be a suicide bomber to scare a taxi-driver but in which, unbeknown to him, other members of the team have substituted an aggressive actor for the driver - falls a bit flat due to lack of dramatic cinematography. The more direct jet-propelled wheelchair crash and 'eat horseshit' dare are actually more within this film's comfort zone. Not a movie to take your grandmother to - or maybe even your girlfriend - in fact admitting you've been to see it might label you A Sad Case; but for a lads' night out after a few beers it's probably hard to beat.
More puzzling is why films like this should work at all. What is it about watching people willingly inflict pain and embarrassment on each other that brings out the voyeur in us? Many theorists account for various types of horror and revulsion in psychosexual terms. Certainly any Freudian could have a field day analysing motives in a film exhibiting anal fixation and masochistic amusements.
But on an audience level there is a response which is simple catharsis: there's the shock of the imminent threat to life and limb (or unbearable embarrassment) followed by relief as the veil is quickly pulled across and we see the willing victim has survived.
This 'negative aesthetic' also serves a useful social function. At a simple level, the bruises of the school rugby field are quickly forgotten amid the camaraderie of the locker room. We suffer work we don't like in order to get a pleasurable reward, or listen to our iPods while working out in the gym.
The competitive nature of male bonding perhaps encourages such an attitude from an early age - the 'emotional sharing' of typical female bonding perhaps being a less useful attribute for the fierce hunter-gatherer. Normally we don't push things to such levels as Jackass Number Two of course, even in SAS training. In a famous English court case, consenting homosexual men who nailed each others' foreskins to pieces of wood were deemed in breach of the law (the 'Spanner' case). Yet, perversely, there is also an element perhaps of the macho hero in the Jackass stunts - things that even James Bond wouldn't dare to do - and an element of subversion that appeals to anti-authoritarian types.
This puerile film is remarkably funny, and remind us how horrific Tom and Jerry is as some of the adventures are based on that cartoon. Most people will give it a wide berth. "Why would you burn him in the first place?" Ryan Dunn is asked after branding his friend with a red hot iron. "Cause it was funny," he replies. The skull and crutches (instead of skull and crossbones) on the 'don't try this at home' disclaimer make us wonder how long they can keep doing these movies before being killed or seriously maimed.Reviewed on: 21 Nov 2006
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