Jackass Forever manages to once again up the ante, delivering not just the series’ best entry, but one of the most truly cinematic films in ages.
When we last saw the Jackass crew all together, they were huddled in a recording booth singing along to Weezer’s “Memories” as the credits rolled on their third feature, a milestone that arrived a decade after their MTV series first aired. Even more time has passed in between that project and Jackass Forever, the latest entry in the storied DIY stunt/prank collective’s extensive TV/film series, yet beyond the superficial signs of aging and some lineup rearrangements, one might be otherwise convinced that no time had passed at all between productions. Such is the beautiful verve and deranged commitment of the Jackass men, still mostly intact after 20+ years of maimings by animals and other creative self-abuse, and while the losses of Ryan Dunn (given a touching commemoration at the close of the credits), producer/hype man Rip Taylor, and Bam Margera (infamously barred from set after being unable to maintain contractual sobriety) cast a shadow over some of the nostalgia trips, Jackass Forever doesn’t let itself get too bogged down in the past.
Introducing a quintet of young, new Jackass’s in an expectedly grand, phallic Godzilla-themed opener, Jackass Forever quickly falls into the rhythms established in the previous films, pausing early on to allow crew MVP Steve-O a moment to reflect on time’s passing, before launching into a relentless procession of painful mischief and proud juvenalia. At this point, Jackass mastermind/fearless leader Johnny Knoxville and producers Spike Jonze and Jeff Tremaine (also the series’ longstanding director) have their formula pretty perfectly fine-tuned, long ago trimming back the structural shagginess and (charmingly) amateurish qualities of the first two films (as well as the reliance on often mid hidden camera bits) in favor of more elaborate, sometimes multi-part stunts of a higher production value. Jackass Forever is another step forward in that regard (albeit with half the budget of the previous, 3D title), but with no perceived loss of the sense of camaraderie and free-spiritedness that has always informed their work and endeared them to a now multi-generational fan base. Knoxville and co. are generous with their young proteges, who include former Odd Future/Loiter Squad member Jasper and newly discovered Insta/YouTube talent Zach Holmes, Poopies, and Rachel Wolfson, all of whom receive prime moments to flex their masochist credentials. That they are obvious Jackass devotees and obsessives themselves (Holmes bears a skull and crutches tattoo on his stomach and performs under the name “Zackass”) incidentally creates a “passing of the torch” narrative that’s jokingly referenced throughout, but is in fact, quite heartening.
The Jackass’ series primary appeal has always been its pursuit of a purely cinematic spectacle, and as Hollywood has shifted toward prioritizing totally unspectacular, airy CGI, the return of their cinema — purely for the pleasures of the human body and kineticism — is more necessary than ever, and the fact that there is actually a new generation of Internet stars eager to pick up the slack inspires hope. As joyous and ingeniously stupid as what’s come before, while also the most consistent film in the series, Jackass Forever astonishingly finds the crew funnier and sharper than they’ve ever been, holding fast to the guiding principle of doing things because others won’t. Sometimes this means pogo-sticking Ehren McGhehey’s balls or smushing Chris Pontius’s dick between two sheets of plexiglass to make a sort of paddleboard, sometimes it means drenching Dave England in pig cum; in any case, Jackass Forever succeeds purely on the merit of its righteous celebration of that which Hollywood otherwise refuses to depict. The fact that it is also truly, organically funny puts it out ahead of just about anything else coming out of this corner of the industry.