A dainty urban setting. City slickers convene outside artisan coffee shops and quaint bistros. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, people begin running and screaming in all directions. Out of the thick smoke that has engulfed this picturesque backdrop, something emerges. A green, Godzilla-esque beast shaped suspiciously like a penis – specifically, Chris Pontius’ penis – terrorising what turns out to be a model city.
And so begins Jackass Forever: never the most high-brow of comedy offerings but the latest instalment in a series that remains raucously entertaining due to its devotion to the belief that watching someone getting pummelled in the nuts by a heavyweight boxer never ceases to be funny.
And it has a point. In fact, what is notable about the Jackass phenomenon, and indeed its remarkable longevity, is that in a time of souped-up reboots and cash driven sequels, this crew of loveable idiots have remained true to their tried and tested formula. Danger, stupidity and an aversion to any and all rationality is the mantra. So, if it ain’t broke – or in this case, very broken, very bruised and very drenched in bodily fluids – why fix it?
If, though, there is to be a contemporary brand burned onto the backside of the franchise’s fourth feature, it would perhaps most closely resemble that of the ‘requel’. Bringing back the legacy players – Pontius, Steve-O, Wee Man and the off-centre charm of ring leader Johnny Knoxville – alongside some diverse new blood – Rachel Wolfson, Zach Holmes, Jasper Dolphin – Forever marks something of a transition period for a series that an entire generation have grown up with. The movie stands as an important reminder that, amid all the absurdity, these guys aren’t getting any younger.
Yet still, two decades on from the first time this team of unlikely cultural icons crashed onto the big screen, there is much enjoyment, wincing and mischievous ingenuity to revel in here. After all, what is Jackass if not inherently cinematic: the modern day incarnation of a classic Chaplin or Keaton pratfall? And this time around, the stakes are once again raised: there are pranks involving bulls, bees, bears and botox (scorpion botox, that is). Other stunts, meanwhile, start out as one thing and quickly evolve into something different altogether – and often much, much more outrageous.
But after all the hits, slips and trips, what bleeds through most in Forever is the infectious camaraderie – the feeling of genuine lifelong friendship. For every painful face plant, for every hapless yelp, there is someone quickly on hand to check everything is OK. Despite making household names of Knoxville, Steve-O and the Oscar-winning filmmaker Spike Jonze, Jackass wonderfully preserves the joy found in childhood pals making memories together.
In that sense, Jackass Forever feels both dated and, as its title suggests, utterly timeless. It is at once a relic of a bygone era of backyard bros pratting around on grainy home video while also harnessing something that defies time and place entirely. And, perhaps most importantly, Jackass Forever remains about as fun as a kick in the balls. Which, as it turns out, is still pretty fun.
George Nash is a freelance film journalist. Follow him on Twitter via @_GeorgeNash for more movie musings