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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


Fans of the original Jackass movie will be happy to know that the sequel, Jackass: Number Two, is grosser, sicker, and more disgusting than the original. Ringleader Johnny Knoxville reunites his gang – Bam Margera, Steve-O, Wee Man, and the others – for a second round of dangerously stupid R-rated stunts with names like “Fart Mask” and “Old Man Balls.” The film opens with the gang being chased (and largely run over) by stampeding bulls, and it ends with Margera praying that there will never be a Jackass 3. That tells you all you need to know. This movie is critic-proof; you already know whether or not this is your cup of tea.

Most of the stunts performed in Jackass: Number Two probably shouldn’t be described in too much detail here, partially because some readers will be offended, and partially because fans won’t want the surprise spoiled. I’ll mention only a few with specificity. The first real gag (no pun intended) that we see involves laid-back Chris Pontius getting bitten on the penis by a snake. Actually, snakes frequently figure into the movie. A later bit finds Knoxville wrestling an anaconda in a ball pit – and visibly getting bitten more than once. It must have hurt like hell, but then again, how many people can say they survived an anaconda bite? I think this idea is probably one of the prime motivations of Knoxville and crew.

Pain has always been a part of the “Jackass” repertoire. It is administered this time in all sorts of ways, from insane skateboard tricks, to launching a guy in a shopping cart into a wall, to experiencing riot control techniques first-hand. The jackasses aren’t the only ones in line for punishment. What they do to quadriplegic rugby star (and subject of the documentary Murderball) Mark Zupan seems downright inhumane, until you realize that he volunteered for the stunt.

If pain is a staple, so is grossness. I won’t tell you what one guy eats, or what several of the members take turns drinking. Nor will I tell you how Steve-O, by far the craziest of the bunch, consumes a beer. (Notice I didn’t say “drinks.”) You don’t want to know these things. Well, maybe you do…you just want to see it for yourself. Those with weak stomachs should choose another movie.

The climactic scene of the original Jackass involved Ryan Dunn inserting a Matchbox car into his anus, then going for a proctology exam. The big capper in Number Two entails what has to be the cruelest practical joke in the history of the world. I don’t know what’s more amazing – that someone actually thought to do this to another person, or the fact that the victim doesn’t seem all that upset about it.

Richard Roeper described the Jackass pictures as documentaries about misfits who find some commonality in their desire to perform outrageous (but creative) stunts. I’d add that the movies are also like a good old-fashioned freak show. Part of the fun is derived from seeing these pictures with an audience. Everyone laughs, everyone screams in delighted horror, some even have to look away. Jackass: Number Two, in particular, almost dares you to watch. There’s a twisted feeling of self-satisfaction that comes from keeping your eyes on the screen the entire time.

It’s my twisted pleasure to report that I did not look away, although I had to watch two scenes through my fingers. The worst moment for me, by far, was the one where Steve-O pushes a fish hook through his cheek. Yes, we see it. Yes, it’s disturbing. The other queasy part involved a leech, but I’m not going to go there.

As foul as it all is, I find it hard to be too offended by the whole “Jackass” phenomenon. The guys willingly put themselves through this stuff and, incredibly, their response to pain is laughter. That makes us laugh as well. And you will laugh – assuming you “get” this kind of thing, that is. Jackass: Number Two can be a little hit-or-miss; not every stunt is brilliant but most are funny on some level and a few are downright uproarious. I laughed more in the first fifteen minutes than I have in the entirety of any 90-minute comedy this year. At the risk of sounding like a sicko, I liked this depraved movie a lot.

( out of four)

Jackass: Number Two is rated R for dangerous, sometimes extremely crude stunts, language and nudity. The running time is 1 hour and 32 minutes.

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