My hands were already freezing before I placed them on the icy car hood; the front tires spun aimlessly, digging themselves a deeper snow trench with each rotation. Pushing with three of my housemates, the car lurched into freedom, but our suffering was not done yet: We had to push it all the way up a hill and out of the parking lot. Cradling whatever purchase we could find, we pushed and pushed and pushed, completing the potentially Sisyphean task before hopping into the car and gunning it. After all, there was no way we were going to miss a minute of “Jackass Forever.”
The latest entry in the legacyquel trend (with examples such as “Scream” (2022) and “The Matrix Resurrections”), “Jackass Forever” picks up with our gang of mischievous daredevils a decade after they last graced our screens. Director Jeff Tremaine (“The Dirt”) reunites with ringleader Johnny Knoxville (“Bad Grandpa”) to bring us joy in the most primitive and enjoyable way possible: stunts, pranks and lots and lots of pain. The crew gathered in December 2019 to start filming, but both on-set injuries and the pandemic pushed principal photography by nine months. An easy way to tell what was shot near the beginning and near the end is to look at Knoxville’s ever-graying hair. The film — which can be categorized as a documentary in the loosest sense — consists of vignettes of people putting themselves in stupidly dangerous situations for our (and their own) amusement.
Some stunts include but are not limited to: a quiz show where a wrong answer is met with a sandal slap to the balls, jumping into a bushel of cacti and being a human ramp. The stunts are juvenile and dangerous, which is exactly why “Jackass” has stayed in the public consciousness since its debut on MTV in 2000. It’s almost impossible to not be infected by the joyous raucousness when watching veteran Steve-O (“Game Over, Man!”) tumble out of an exploded Porta-Potty. The hijinks resemble loving pranks between close friends, albeit ones that rely on pocket tasers and wild animals.
Although not much has changed, the injection of youth provided by the newest members of the Jackass crew — Odd Future founder Jasper (“Loiter Squad”) and his father Darkshark (“Loiter Squad”), stand-up comedian Rachel Wolfson (“Antisocial Distance”), actor Eric Manaka (“Action Point”), daredevil Zach Holmes (“Too Stupid to Die”) and goofball Sean “Poopies” McInerney (“Who is JOB?”) — is much appreciated. The newbies step up to the plate with confidence ready in spades, each getting their moment to shine and proving their worth as a “Jackass.” The newbies are all in, biting at the chance to perform daring feats of stupidity in a refusal to let the original gang show them up.
This emotional undercurrent saturates the entire film: The old guard is nearing retirement and must pass their batons to the crew that can replace them. The nostalgia is palpable both within the cast and the chosen pranks, many of which are extreme variations on classics like “The Cup Test,” “The Underwater Fart Fire” and “The Triple Wedgie.” It’s no small wonder that the mishmash of new and old work so well together, as many of the additions cite the original “Jackass” show and movies as formative viewing experiences.
It’s perhaps due to this immediate chemistry that “Jackass Forever” is the most refined “Jackass” has ever been. There is even a notable lack of malicious zingers and gross-out humor, as the film focuses on stunts and off-set shenanigans instead. With all the fat cut out, the movie is a riotous goodtime that speeds by like a bullet train; as the massive, budget-blowing final stunt was wrapping up, I looked at my superfan housemate and said, “Wait. It’s over?”
Whether I was referring to the film itself, the concept of “Jackass” or my impending graduation, I have no idea. For two entire hours, I sat in a nearly empty movie theater surrounded by my housemates who I’ve spent the past four years with, and nothing else mattered than what was on the screen. I couldn’t worry about leaving school when I was laughing at someone biking full force into a painted wall, Wile E. Coyote-style. I wasn’t thinking about post-graduation plans when I was failing to catch my breath over poor Danger Ehren (“All Hell Breaks Loose”) getting walloped in the nuts by a UFC fighter, softball pitcher and hockey player. Yes, it was stupid and juvenile and as primitive as you can get, but that’s what made it special.
Beneath all the pranks and whimsy and shenanigans and ruckus, “Jackass Forever” is about a group of friends who love each other so much that they are willing to endure unimaginable pain just to make each other laugh. It’s about living in the moment, every painful, funny, dangerous, outrageous moment with those close to you because time marches on. With the danger magnate Johnny Knoxville finally aging out at 50 — along with sustaining actual brain damage during a bull stunt — the friend group is changing. But if their performance in this movie is anything to judge them by, the next generation of Jackasses is more than capable of carrying the torch.
As my housemates and I hopped out of the car in a desperate attempt to push it back into the parking lot we fought so hard to release it from, I couldn’t feel the cold. I was too busy trying to ambush my friends with mounds of fresh snow to actually notice the below-freezing temperatures. I know that in the long run, “Jackass Forever” was merely a distraction and not some deeply affecting piece of art that shattered my world. But like an impromptu snowball fight without gloves, it was a marvelously entertaining and enjoyable one.
Senior Arts Editor M. Deitz can be reached at email@example.com.