Either you're down with the Jackass oeuvre of outrageous stunts and pranks, or you're not. I caught the 2002 film, Jackass: The Movie, on cable one lazy night, and it made me laugh harder than any movie I saw that year. It seemed so wrong to enjoy it, and yet
Part of that film's pleasure was the sheer novelty of its brash vulgarity, and its occasionally brilliant absurdity. Plus, Jackass was a smackdown of the phony niceness of America's Funniest Home Videos, as well as seamless (and likely digitally enhanced) action-movie stunts, blooper reels and the carefully vetted gags pulled by late-night talk shows. Jackass was a dare: "We know what you really want to see, you sick bastards, and we'll give it to you, and more." It was juvenile humor elevated almost to performance art.
Of course, a second round is never as clever or as funny. And Jackass: Number Two, directed again by Jeff Tremaine and ring-mastered by Johnny Knoxville, is simply more of the same. If you've seen Jackass, then you already know if you want to see more. If you're new to the canon, note that the film is literally named after poop. And if you don't want to see poop along with vomiting, ass, balls, naked people of extreme sizes and scene after scene of people getting hurt then save your money.
Such dubious entertainment aside, for me the stunts are the best part of the film. And since they generally pit a Jackasser against the forces of physics, they're free from the petty meanness that plagues some of the pranks. Some stunts have a built-in absurdity that doesn't require a crash-landing payoff such as when a pair clamber onto penny-farthing bicycles with the goal of executing a few BMX-style tricks, or the film's inspired opening, a bull-run through suburbia.
A remarkable amount of this crew's activity is centered around the genitals. The constant attention to, display and discussion of, reproductive and excretory organs falls somewhere between a hyper-aggressive homoeroticism and a seventh-grade boys' locker room. It surely gives the viewer pause. On the dubious upside, this is such a boys-only world that there isn't a whiff of misogyny.
Yet after an hour, the material wears a little thin: more wipeouts, more body fluids, more nearly naked guys writhing in pain. And I found the Finale Prank, a riff on the current climate of terror that should have been a cakewalk, to be poorly performed and bogged by more crotch-related goofing.
Jackass: Number Two is strictly for fans only. It's not art, but whatever it is, Knoxville and his pals give their all for your puerile amusement. Love it or hate it I reckon they're happy with either reaction.