Jackass Number Two (Unrated)(Paramount Home Entertainment, 12.26.2006)
The Bush Administration should seriously consider hiring the Jackass guys to do a bit of Iraq PR for them. Johnny Knoxville and crew make everything that's unsavory about the Abu Ghraib torture stories and general issues of mutilation, pain, and extremely dangerous situations into something vaguely pleasurable. Heck, if a snuff film could ever be funny, Jackass would prove it, all heckling over the dead body even as it expired. I say stick the entire Jackass gang in U.S. military uniforms and ship them to the Middle East for a goodwill demonstration of how to make wargames fun again.
The secret to their success is fairly straightforward: a) they are self-destructive without being self-loathing, b) they turn their worst violent tendencies onto themselves rather than others, and c) they chug beer and laugh uncontrollably, even as they inflict pain or, in many cases, experience it first-hand. In short, they represent a rare, healthy example of American citizens expressing naturally hostile tendencies, without needing to get behind a complex, questionable foreign policy machine in order to do so.
The plot for this second film installment in the wildly popular MTV television series also ups the homoerotic ante with multiple scenes involving testicles -- real and fake -- as well as snakes, bullhorns, and rockets (all representing penises). Personally, I disagree with many critics' conclusion that the Jackass franchise is all just a thinly veiled expression of repressed sexual love between the cast. I think the entire Jackass brand is definitely about repression, but not theirs. It has more to do with the inability of straight males in North American culture to show any physical or emotional intimacy towards one another. That is, unless they play sports or put themselves through the type of stunts we're talking about here.
If Jackass has a message, it's this: without a socially acceptable outlet, male intimacy gets weird. In a sense, Jackass is the male intimacy equivalent of the sons-hating-their-mothers theme in Hitchock's Psycho: a common, collective conscience phenomenon, expressed through the barely-disguised narrative of a hyperbolically violent film. Ah, what lurks beneath the surface of us messed up boys.
After missing this film in theatres, one of my biggest worries was that it would feature the same vague nausea that creeps up at a high school reunion. Would the Jackass guys be old? Would they not be funny anymore? Does liking them make me outdated? Thankfully, my nerves subsided very quickly from the first bit and it felt like I was hanging out with the old gang again. It's actually refreshing how uncontextualized and timeless the Jackass stunts are. Regardless of what song is number 1 on the Billboard Charts or what news story is sweeping CNN, the Jackass brand promises laughs and shocks that transcend most of what seems relevant and important at the moment. And God bless 'em for it.
The great thing about any Jackass DVD is the opportunity to get pulled even further into this genuinely dangerous world, from the safety of your armchair. This disc is stacked with outtakes, deleted scenes, and various advertising spots, many of which are original and not simply clips lifted from the film (and they're quite funny in and of themselves).
An audio commentary by the Jackass cast is expectedly loud, hilarious, barely coherent at times, and yet highly informative, while a making-of doc offers behind-the-scenes glimpses into just how dangerous some of these stunts are and what's needed to keep the performers/those around them safe. The unrated version also offers more nudity than the theatrical version, both in the actual film and in a Karazy music video, which has been "unblurred" for this DVD. -- Jason Woloski