Movie review by Greg Carlson
Following a handful of half-hearted attempts to penetrate Hollywood as a comic actor, Johnny Knoxville returns to form as the leader of one of the most obnoxious and fearless crews of louts to appear on the big screen. Belonging to a strange genre almost completely its own, “Jackass Number Two” combines staged stuntman spectacle with an almost handmade, do-it-yourself documentary aesthetic. Comprised, like its ridiculously profitable predecessor, of random clips of Knoxville and friends performing monumentally offensive and stupid tricks, gags, and practical jokes, the movie is guaranteed to appeal to its massive teenage male constituency.
Often risking life and limb – one wonders how many pages of releases and waivers and insurance forms are signed prior to production – Team Jackass alternates between “Wild Kingdom”-style animal encounters and the sort of ambush street theatre of “Candid Camera.” When not doing one of those two things, the boys tend to cook up non-stop opportunities to expel or ingest various bodily fluids, sometimes expelling and then ingesting. Audiences without any tolerance for an invention known as the “Fart Mask” are not likely to wander into “Jackass Number Two” accidentally, but even so, it might be worth a word of warning.
In so many ways, the “Jackass” franchise is utterly critic-proof, which makes the sequel’s largely positive print reception all the more surprising. While comparing the nature of “Jackass” to Luis Bunuel, who is thanked in the credits, is a stretch, there is something to be said for the anarchic spirit Knoxville and company bring to the proceedings. Yes, the image of a razor slicing open an eye in “Un Chien Andalou” continues to startle decades later, but seeing a real leech attach itself to Steve-O’s eyeball can also trigger a visceral reaction. Weak-hearted viewers might feel compelled to look away any number of times, and the screening attended by this critic resulted in at least one occasion when a person briefly excused herself for some fresh air.
For some “Jackass” connoisseurs, the sequel might be missing something. It turns out that coming up with new ways to potentially injure oneself takes a great deal of imagination, and some of the movie’s bits feel reheated. Guest star John Waters, in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-him cameo, is completely underused; of all people, he might have been able to say something witty and intelligent about all the debasement and debauchery. Instead, he merely introduces a “magic trick” in which Wee Man is smothered by an obese woman’s belly flop.
The movie’s best segments, however, demonstrate a great deal of inventiveness. A four-way teeter-totter placed at the center of a rodeo ring takes on a Tex Avery-esque quality once an angry bull is released. Another rodeo-themed scene uses a suspended fire hose as a stand-in for a bucking bronco. The movie’s most elaborate and complex set-up involves the application of a beard made entirely of cast members’ pubic hair, a cab ride to the airport involving a phony terrorist, and a dirty double-cross in which an undercover Jay Chandrasekhar pulls a gun on the unsuspecting Ehren McGhehey. It’s a clever scene, and will keep devotees happy until the next “Jackass” film makes its way to the multiplex.
This review was originally published in the High Plains Reader the week of 9/25/06.