By Ben Thomson, Staff writer
Johnny Knoxville has gray hair.
It seems trivial to point out, especially since he’s just as charming and energetic as you’d expect. And yet, when you see a bull almost break the man’s neck, you must stop and realize that Knoxville has gray hair.
Jackass Forever, like previous installments, is effing hilarious. There’s something about grown men putting themselves through ridiculous amounts of pain for an audience of millions that just speaks to me.
It’s a different experience to see Preston Lacy jump into a pile of cacti than it is to see some random dude actually hurt himself. Knoxville, Lacy, Wee-Man, Steve-O, Danger Ehren, Chris Pontius and Dave Englund are just as funny now as they were in the early 2000s. They’re showmen, not idiots on YouTube. Their camaraderie, charm and wit make an otherwise shocking exercise in human endurance wholesome.
This installment in particular felt the sincerest. This is the most vulnerable you’ve ever seen the Jackass crew, both emotionally and physically. But especially physically.
More than any other installment, Jackass Forever puts the boys into compromising positions.
The nudity is off the wall. The boys’ bare d*ck and balls are displayed proudly on the big screen. The opening sequence features the boys being attacked by a giant monster portrayed by Chris Pontius’ giant monster. I can’t think of any other environment where this much trust and safety exist. The nudity may be a crude thing to point out, but it goes to show how much these guys still love each other.
While there’s a lot of the same old Jackass to be found in this return, it’s not the same Jackass. It’s worth noting that two of the original guys did not return for this sequel: Ryan Dunn, who tragically passed away in 2011 (the film is dedicated to his memory) and Bam Margera, who was fired from production after failing a studio mandated drug test (though he appears briefly in the “Marching Band Treadmill” skit).
With these absences, however, come new cast members, including Zack “Zackass” Holmes, Odd Future’s Jasper Dolphin (bringing with him his hilarious father Dark Shark) and Rachel Wolfson, among others. And while the absence of Margera and Dunn are felt, the new cast makes up for the hole left by the other two.
This is the most scared I’ve ever been watching a Jackass film. As mentioned before, the guys aren’t as young as they once were. So, when they get hurt, you feel it. Whether it’s the brain hemorrhage given to Knoxville by that bull, the swarm of bees that claimed Steve-O’s penis as their new home or the multiple crotch injuries sustained by Danger Ehren (including via pogo stick), you sometimes have to wonder if these guys are going to live to see the next scene. Thankfully, the new cast seems to signify a passing of the torch and hopefully an easy retirement for the guys.
There are many ways I could try to intellectualize Jackass. Perhaps it’s a study in positive masculinity. An homage to the likes of Buster Keaton and Evel Knievel. A study of the human body’s limitations. But at the end of the day, it’s about seeing UFC fighter Francis Ngannou punch Ehren in his nutsack.
Jackass is cinema.