THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


I get a lot of grief from my loved ones because I watch MTV's "Jackass." Even my best friend - who thinks Howard Stern is a howl - questions how I can watch something so tasteless and offensive. I could make up a hundred different justifications for it. I could claim that it's a televised experiment in abnormal psychology (psych was one of my majors in college; writing was the other). I could declare the show a prime example of the traditional "shock humor". Comparing it to a train wreck might also be an excuse. I could even take a moral tone and suggest that, while I do indeed watch the show, I am actually repulsed by it.

None of that would be true though. The simple fact is that I watch "Jackass" out of curiosity. I don't think shooting yourself with a stun gun is a good idea, but if somebody's going to do it, I want to know what happens.

MTV stopped production of "Jackass" after several teenagers were hurt imitating stunts performed on the show. This, in turn, led to Jackass: The Movie, a 90-minute, R-rated film that proudly promises "stuff you won't see on TV." In other words, a much truer execution of the concept than one would actually see on television.

The cast of Jackass: The Movie participates in a group stunt
The movie opens with a staged bit in which the cast members, most of whom are professional skateboarders, careen down a street in a gigantic shopping cart while cannons shoot them with debris. After this intro, the stunts begin. Host Johnny Knoxville rents a car, uses it in a demolition derby, then tries to return it to the car rental place. Knoxville - also an actor who recently appeared in Men in Black 2 - is the jolly ringleader of this motley circus. He's affable in a slightly daffy kind of way. During the film, he also gets shot with a special beanbag gun used by police for riot control, lets a baby alligator bite his nipple, and gets his head split open by a professional boxer. (Knoxville is also knocked unconscious during a stunt involving a golf cart.)

At the other end of the spectrum is Bam Margera, a.k.a. the mean-spirited one. Many of his scenes, as fans well know, involve torturing his father Phil. Bam beats his dad up on camera regularly, and sneaks into his parents' bedroom in the middle of the night to set off a string of firecrackers. Preston Lacy and Jason "Wee Man" Acuna are kind of like a thrasher version of Abbott and Costello. The obese guy and the little person dress up in Sumo costumes and chase each other around city streets. Chris Pontius goes by the nickname "Party Boy". He dances around in a G-string for shock value when he's not stuffing his underwear full of fish and swimming with whales. Then there's Dave England, who would be right at home in a John Waters flick. This jackass actually defecates into a display toilet in a hardware store. Later, his buddy Ehren McGehey eats a pile of snow he has just urinated on. I am fairly certain that no woman who sees this movie will ever date McGhehey.

The wildman of the bunch is Steve-o, a guy who will literally do just about anything. If you watch the show, you may remember the time he had his butt cheeks pierced together. Steve-o got the biggest laugh in the movie from my point of view: he sticks a bottle rocket in his ass and launches it. It's worth noting that the three most humorous things to "Jackass" cast members are buttocks, genitalia injuries, and vomiting - all of which are on ample display here.

Surprisingly, Jackass: The Movie contains a shocking moment in which Steve-o refuses to do a stunt. Instead, Ryan Dunn is selected to put a Matchbox car in a condom and place it in his rectum. Dunn then goes for an X-ray and is amused by the reaction of the bewildered technicians who see what's inside him.

You know, as I write this, I realize it doesn't sound good for me to say I enjoy watching it. There's admittedly something intensely juvenile about the very concept of "Jackass." Then again, we laugh at this stuff all the time, when you think about it. If someone gets something shoved up their ass in a movie like American Pie or a Farrelly Brothers comedy, everybody laughs. When somebody does it for real, half the people watching get horrified.

Not all the things in the film are disgusting. Knoxville and crew hide in the bushes at a golf course and blow air horns every time an unsuspecting golfer is about to tee off. I haven't laughed so hard in a long time. There's also a rather innocuous, but still cringe-inducing, bit in which the cast members give each other paper cuts. What makes someone do this kind of outlandish thing? Beer. The jackasses seem to drink a lot of it. Probably they get a little sloshed and dare each other.

Jackass: The Movie is obviously only for fans of the show. You either get this kind of thing or you don't. If you don't, you're not likely to be converted. There's really no way to justify liking it to those who hate it. Personally, I don't like these guys, I don't think what they do is smart, and I would never want to hang out with any of them. Watching their antics, though, is a different matter. You never know what you're going to see; you only know that you won't see it anywhere else. I like "Jackass" and I make no apologies for it.

( out of four)

Jackass: The Movie is rated R for dangerous, sometimes extremely crude stunts, language and nudity. The running time is 1 hour and 25 minutes.

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