The Jackass guys have gotten older but, thankfully, their maturity levels have stayed the same. Over 22 years, three television seasons and movies on screens big and small, Johnny Knoxville’s lovable goons have been whacked so often that their orchestra of moans could play “O Fortuna.”
In “Jackass Forever,” the director Jeff Tremaine’s original cast — now solidly middle-aged war horses — expands to include younger, more elastic bodies like the rapper Jasper Dolphin (real name: Davon Wilson); an adult man who calls himself “Poopies” (Sean McInerney); and the stand-up comic Rachel Wolfson, the franchise’s first girl, who is dared to lick a stun gun. (The end credits honor the crew’s old comrade Ryan Dunn, who died in a car crash at 34 in 2011. Another original member, Bam Margera, was fired by Paramount in 2020 for breach of contract. He has since filed a lawsuit claiming wrongful termination.) Knoxville, 50, has said that this will be his final film — he sustained a brain hemorrhage from getting flipped upside-down by a bull during filming — and his swan song is not for the bashful. Nether regions are pummeled with softballs, hockey pucks, flip-flops and pogo sticks. They’re bedecked with live bees and painted to look like Godzilla. One willing victim, the performer and punishment glutton Ehren McGhehey, better known as Danger Ehren, is restrained and coated in honey to attract a bear.
“Jackass” remains the most shocking theatrical experience since the mythic mid-1890s screening of the Lumière brothers’ “Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat Station.” As a test of resolve, it has no rivals. The performers fling themselves into dumb and painful stunts on purpose, and blissfully weak-willed audience members cackle knowing that their laughter is proof that they haven’t grown up either. Two things continue to hoist “Jackass” above its legion of imitators, many of whom are now found on TikTok. First, the razor-sharp slow-motion cinematography, which immortalizes writhing men in wet underpants with the devotion of Michelangelo sculpting “The Pietà.” Second — and more important — is the crew’s friendship, which is evident as they egg on the wounded and apply a healing salve of applause in nearly every scene. Bones get brittle. The heart muscle remains strong.
Rated R for raw language, rawer nudity and real pain. Running time: 1 hour 36 minutes. In theaters.