We are living in the midst of a ’90s revival. The best thing on TV is a show – soundtracked by Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch, two-hit wonders Republica and reggae-rap hybrid Snow, starring icons of the decade like Juliette Lewis and Christina Ricci – called Yellowjackets. We’re seeing the doomed tale of Pam & Tommy play out on the other channel. For regrettable reasons, Damon Albarn is perhaps more famous than he ever was with Blur. Meanwhile in cinemas, ‘The Disaster Master’ Roland Emmerich is blowing things up with the gusto of old while Scream’s Ghostface runs around stabbing teenagers like it’s 1996 once more.
It’s perhaps somewhat predictable then that Jackass – the smash hit, MTV-produced stunt show born out of the pages of ace, hyper-irreverent underground skateboarding magazine Big Brother – is back in cinemas too. If you ignore the greying hairs of Johnny Knoxville, Steve-O, Chris Pontius and co., the fourth instalment in the film series (if you choose to ignore 2013’s wretched Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa, and we do) you may well think you’re back in 2000, when the show first aired. Before the towers fell, before endless wars in far-flung locales, before the financial crash, before Twitter – and before the global pandemic that’s often threatened to obliterate fun forever.
This, you suspect, is the reason why fans are so excited for a Jackass revival. There is much here that nods to a simpler time. Much that is respite from the increasingly complex, extremely confusing, very divided, outrage-fuelled, ideologically befuddled hellscape we have created in the years that have passed since the show first aired. Sometimes you just want to laugh, or to smile. Sometimes you just want to see a dude get kicked in the dick, y’know?
But there’s another reason why the return of Jackass is so welcome in 2022. Despite this principally being a franchise about people doing mean stuff to each other, it’s also a series about people who really, really like hanging out together. Isn’t Jackass just Friends with nut-shots? For all the vomit, blood, bruises and testicles (there are perhaps more testicles on display here than stars in the sky) a fair few moments in Jackass Forever might make you genuinely emotional.
Case in point, the kindness shown to cast veteran Steve-O throughout. Sure, his compadres might honk like drunk donkeys watching him cover his exposed penis in bees, but given the decade of rehab, suicide attempts and institutionalisation the sometime clown endured in times past, it’s clear that, here, he is with family. Then there’s the hushed concern shown to de facto leader Knoxville as he’s knocked unconscious by a charging bull (a criticism of the movie might be its use of live animals, though a disclaimer swears none were harmed). Or the way incoming cast members (Pontius: “We’re getting old, so we need new blood”) mingle with old hands, obviously thrilled to be joining said family. There’s a kindness and companionship – and freedom – to Jackass Forever that makes for 90 minutes of pure joy. Remember joy?
Oh, and if you’re not convinced by all this, you also get to see shock rocker Machine Gun Kelly hit in the face with a massive human hand. And if that’s not worth the price of admission, god knows what you want for your money.
- Director: Jeff Tremaine
- Starring: Johnny Knoxville, Steve-O, Chris Pontius
- Release date: February 4