We're long past the point where Johnny Knoxville and his motley Jackass crew are accepted critical darlings. Yet the reality is that "Jackass Forever" is a level up. Perhaps it is because this crude and cathartic piece of cinema is intended to be the group's swansong, after Knoxville told GQ that he's retiring from the extreme stunt antics of the franchise:
You can only take so many chances before something irreversible happens. I feel like I've been extremely lucky to take the chances I've taken and still be walking around ... I can't afford to have any more concussions. I can't put my family through that.
Since the original show debuted on MTV in 2000, "Jackass" has always been the funniest form of rage — against the machine, decorum, and even male genitalia — but here the anger's aimed against the light dying. No one in "Jackass Forever" is prepared to go gentle into that good night, and their fortitude yields the most cathartic and horrifying stack of stunts they've ever strung together. Here is every stunt in "Jackass Forever," ranked.
Let's be clear about something before awarding "Scorpion Botox" last place: Rachel Wolfson is a miracle. There should be more of her in "Jackass Forever" because her every appearance is both welcome and a game-changer as the first female member of the crew. Wolfson is effortlessly funny, ballsy, and generally keeps all involved on their toes. Witness her performance in "Scorpion Botox," in which she simultaneously acts the role of a patient seeking plastic surgery as well as beleaguered stunt performer simultaneously. The sketch isn't low on this list because of her whatsoever.
Why then? Because a member of the gang getting punished by an animal is a recurrent gag in "Jackass Forever," and the end result is richer in other sketches. Rachel is a pro who delivers on all counts here, whether through tempting the scorpion which bites her face repeatedly or through donning the role of stoked plastic surgery patient throughout. Alas, it remains a low light in a movie full of insane, ecstatic highs.
Cold Brew / Bicycle Back Hand
One of the more endearing (and ridiculousness-catalyzing) trends in "Jackass Forever" is "enthused celebrity participation." It's clear from the new blood involved with the film that "Jackass" has shaped lives, including Jasper, Zach Holmes, Machine Gun Kelly, and Eric André. Both André's self-titled show and stunt-heavy Netflix feature "Bad Trip" are the brand's most obvious successor, while the path to MGK's punk-pop-dirtbag chic was paved by Bam and Steve-O. These guys owe "Jackass" a debt. In "Forever," they pay it in pain.
How? André gets punched by a coffee truck and Kelly is backhanded by a literally massive hand. You could argue that Kelly takes the worse hit of the two (falling into ice-cold water while racing Steve-O on stationary bikes), but André's stunt racks up greater comedic mileage if only for the stunned reaction that follows it. When André goes to get a cold brew only to get sucker-punched for his purchase, his surprise is palpable. André excels at prank misdirection and has all the resets to show for it, yet the "Jackass" crew still takes him for a ride. That makes "Cold Brew" nothing short of masterful and charming to boot.
The gang truly is all here in "Jackass Forever," even Bad Grandpa. For those who don't know, "Bad Grandpa" is the black sheep of the Jackass family, a film that grafts narrative structures onto stunts and wacky poop jokes. It's only half-successful. The secret weapon of the "Jackass" brand has always been brevity and tacking on a story just dulls the effect. This is why it's somewhat satisfying to see Bad Grandpa return free of excess content in "Jackass Forever." He sits on a couch, then flung through the ceiling. People react. End of story.
In truth, "Jackass" does need a stunt or two like this to serve as chasers for its penis clamp-ery. The "Bad Grandpa" bit involves ordinary humans, folks who see a guy rocket into a lighting fixture and don't instantly begin laughing fitfully. That makes it essential to "Jackass Forever" even though its returns are paltry. Like "Bad Grandpa," it's part of the gang.
If you didn't know that "pig semen" is inherently funny, "Jackass Forever" will teach you otherwise. Every time a porker's reproductive fluids are mentioned by name or appear on screen, the result is an instant laugh induction, no more so than when Dave England takes a "Carrie"-esque bath in the stuff during "The Boar-Kake." The sketch isn't elegant, and it doesn't have to be. If anything, it's horrifyingly earnest. For the briefest of moments, we catch England with his guard down reminiscing on camera about his favorite "Jackass" moments from the past twenty years. Seeing England wax nostalgic is almost awe-inspiring. Misty-eyed memory is not the sort of emotional minefield "Jackass" normally traverses, and you almost wish England would keep doing so for a while. He doesn't, though, because pig semen enters the picture.
The Jackass crew's ability to blend horror with hilarity makes the giggles this scene generates possible. Where once the stunts were mostly playing with the team's scatological threshold, now they're either getting into performer's heads or forcing performers into their own, and that's an inherently funny moral for any "Jackass" film.
The Marching Band
Life is a march to death. Along the way, we find distractions — jobs, friends, "Jackass" movies — that give our coil-shuffle meaning. Johnny Knoxville understands this. His journey to fame was rife with mortal peril, so now that he's famous what is there to do but stage a stunt in which you march right into peril, trombones honking?
That's the hook of "The Marching Band," which finds Knoxville, Steve-O, and even Bam Margera pre-firing dressed in high school band clothes heading towards a treadmill. They play their instruments poorly. They step up on the treadmill. Everyone is shot off it closer to death. Nihilistic? Oh, yeah, absolutely, but the unwavering way director Jeff Tremaine captures the exercise equipment violence and the actual harm which comes to Steve-O are so unwavering that they dip back into hilarity. In acting school, my classmates and I did an exercise where we had to cry then laugh then cry again. It turns out the distance between them is minimal. That's what "The Marching Band" is like, in a microcosm. March on.
The Exploding Fart Fire
Tom Brady's legacy is Super Bowls. Oprah's legacy is changing the face of daytime television forever and forging new opportunities for women and BIPOC creators alike. The Jackass crew lit a fart on fire underwater. Not all legacies are created equal. All kidding aside, the team behind "Jackass" has been attempting to spark flatulence into exploding within H20 for decades. That they can afford to bring in an explosives expert to help them do so now is astounding. That the stunt hinges on actual scientific theory is even wilder.
"Jackass Forever" was filmed during the pandemic (multiple cast and crew members appear masked), and the idea that protective KN95's were lowered with the methodical aim of turning gas into an explosion James Cameron would envy is stupid, brave, and moving in equal measure. Some would call it a waste of resources. I call it a reckless call to laughter. Precision is employed, adjustments are made, and Steve-O's balls get rocked upside down. Legacy secured.
The Dum Dum Game
"Dum Dum Game" is the perfect name for a Jackass stunt. On some level, every single Jackass stunt is a Dum Dum Game with interchangeable rules, a contest in which you only have to be smart enough to ignore your intelligence for the sake of life-risking awesomeness. Here, though, the gang is actually required to answer fourth-grade level questions. If they answer correctly, their genitals are safe. If not, they are smacked harder than Robin in that Batman meme. You can guess what happens.
What's harder to predict, though, is Johnny Knoxville's inclination as "Dum Dum Game" host for abandoning the game altogether and randomly nut punching contestants via contraption. Everyone on screen is a participant in the "Dum Dum Game," not to mention the "Jackass Forever" audience. The sketch occurs in the film's first 10 minutes and is a reminder to shut our brains off. If we haven't by that moment, we're probably you-know-what.
Speaking of legacy, Wee Man's confrontation with an angry buzzard is a spiritual follow up to early, graveyard-set Jackass sketches, and equally morbid. Steve-O and Chris Pontius even reprise their roles as summoners of the damned. However, those earlier bits didn't feature Wee Man staked to the ground with tiny chunks of meat stuffed into his drawers in the hopes that a vulture will snatch said meat out of his nether regions.
It's an insane setup, made all the more insane by how camera-aware the vulture is, but it captures the essential appeal of "Jackass" in microcosm. No matter how absurd or absurdly dangerous its stunts are, they must always feel human. When Wee Man (real name Jason Acuná) faces the predator down he kicks his leg out spastically, to which someone (presumably director Jeff Tremaine) says, "Don't kick the bird." "I didn't kick the bird," Wee Man snaps back. It's a hysterically mundane strain of bickering, one which would still be funny if the fight didn't hinge on the potential destruction of reproductive organs by a wild animal. The human element of "Jackass" remains strong, and the degree to which it does in the "Buzzard" sketch makes it a highlight of "Jackass Forever."
The Opening Sequence
In a way, the "Jackass" movies are inverse kaiju pictures. Where giant monsters are often metaphorical creatures who wreak havoc upon ordinary humans, "Jackass" movies are about endearingly everyday performers who wreck themselves immeasurably. Their shared trait is destruction, which is also their hook, so it's little wonder that "Jackass Forever" opens with a sequence that probably sunk half its budget.
The crew and a gaggle of celebrities (Tony Hawk! Jalen Ramsey!) face off against a kaiju puppeteered by Chris Pontius' penis and get ruined in more ways than one. Steve-O winds up feces-covered in a port-a-potty. Wee Man and Dave England are exploded off a marquee. It's all very impressive, but potentially safer than the myriad stunts which follow it? Not so. The closing credits crawl makes it clear through BTS footage that none of the stunts in the kaiju sequence were faked or CGI-assisted. Steve-O truly gets poop slopped. England's hand is hurt (possibly burned) during the marquee wrecking. When Danger Ehren takes a tackle from Ramsey, one of the NFL's notorious tacklers, it's hard not to feel it in your gut. Even when they're paying homage to another genre, the "Jackass" crew cannot help but speak in their own dangerous love language.
All good things must come to an end and "Jackass Forever" is one of them, but the conclusion of Johnny Knoxville's latest epic is anything but good for the crew of stunt performers. Each is strapped into a spinning carousel and given a gallon of milk. They are then instructed to drink that milk as the wheel spins around in the hopes they blow chunks all over themselves and potentially their castmates. (I am aware of how stupid this sounds.)
What elevates the stunt, though, is the insane chaos which follows it. Without any warning, an army arrives bearing paintball guns and begins to pellet the performers. They wind up covered in welts. They throw each other to the proverbial wolves. Steve-O, bless him, even winds up taking a paintball to his penis. All of this occurs before a sudden explosion straight out of "Apocalypse Now," with Knoxville taking on the role of proverbial Colonel Kurtz. The reason this stunt ranks in the middle of Jackass' offerings is that it doesn't have a hook so much as madness. But madness is the only way to send "Jackass Forever" out. After a film in which cacti are flung into, toilets are exploded, and butts get destroyed, where is there to go but ... whatever this is? The answer is "The Vomit-Torium." I love the smell of retched milk in the morning.
The Mime Game
You don't know what you got 'till it's gone. Joni Mitchell knew it. So, too, will "Jackass Forever" audiences after the insane Mime Show stunt, which finds Rachel Wolfson, Sean "Poopies" McInerney, and Steve-O competing to endure a barrage of horrors without uttering one single peep. Rachel electrocutes her mouth, Poopies takes not one but multiple spider bites, and Steve-O endures something called the skateboard guillotine. We shall leave what that is up to your imagination, but (spoiler alert) he cannot hold his tongue whilst receiving it.
That sudden influx of sound is a stark reminder of how strongly screams of pain inform the most brutal "Jackass" punchlines. It is to its brand what rapid-fire dialogue is to Aaron Sorkin and Amy Sherman-Palladino, the foundation on which great film and TV is built. Credit the Jackass crew for knowing themselves well enough to risk a few hysterical minutes without it.
The Spider Test
Dark Shark only appears in two "Jackass Forever" sketches, but the mark he leaves is indelible. I'll put it like this: When Judi Dench won an Oscar for "Shakespeare in Love," she only appeared on screen for eight minutes, approximately four % of the film. Dark Shark does more with less, because — with respect to Judi Dench — she spent no part of that performance in a space helmet willing a spider to not bite her face using only lung strength.
That's the hook of "The Spider Helmet," which finds Dark Shark and Danger Ehren wearing an interconnected set of helmets and a very angry arachnid dropped in the tub which links them. Shark is deathly afraid of spiders. His reactions are art. You worry for his blood pressure as you witness them, but you also realize few documentaries or comedies will ever capture a moment so distressingly human. That's what we're supposed to give acting awards for and, even if Black Shark isn't pretending in the slightest, it's hard not to want to give him a medal anyway.
More than any other "Jackass" film or episode, "Forever" is in conversation with its cruelty. That seems a weird thing to say about a show where everyone knowingly participates in purposefully vile extremity, but Jeff Tremaine's movie makes it clear that things go too far when you're playing with fire. To wit, the "Dirty Dancing" stunt. The setup is clear: Preston, who is tall and not skinny, is going to play Jennifer Beals to Wee Man's Patrick Swayze as they recreate the "the lift." You know which lift. As you've guessed it's very difficult, but as the two prepared to have the time of their lives Preston gasps because ... he's pooped his pants. It takes a lot to stun the "Jackass" gang. This does it.
As the group pivots to filming Preston and his soiled drawers, making a mountain from a mostly feces molehill, Preston chortle,s "I'm fifty-one years old and I s**t my pants." It's a stark and stunningly funny moment, one that reminds us just how old these performers are, just how wild it is that many of them are alive to keep risking death and mortal embarrassment for laughs. It's a cruel twist of fate that Preston poops himself. Older and wiser, the movie laughs at and with him.
The Magic Trick
I would not advise reading about the "Magic Trick" stunt before you've seen "Jackass Forever." Even though it is clear throughout that the performers in this film sustain actual harm, the "Bull" bit is a whole other level of hurt. As reported in USA Today, Johnny Knoxville flipped in the air one-and-a-half times before landing on his head. Knoxville says he actually had to be hospitalized:
"I had a broken wrist, broken rib, a concussion. And I had a brain hemorrhage."
Just to be clear, you see Knoxville sustain a brain hemorrhage on more than one occasion during "Jackass Forever." You see it in real-time, then on repeat, and if you already know what you're watching there's an eerie pall that settles over that sequence. The suspension of disbelief, however thin, goes slack. That said, it's almost worth it for the two phrases Knoxville says as he gets strapped to the gurney. "Did we get it?" Tremaine lets him know they did. Then, "that bull didn't f**ing like magic." This is what Knoxville cares about more than anything, even when his brain is bleeding. This is his life's work, his passion, his madness. Seeing it realized so starkly and hysterically is a reminder of what these films cost and how we get our money's worth. Knowledge is horrible power.
"Jackass" is not in conversation with "Hereditary" or any "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" movie, but as of "Jackass Forever" the franchise is now firmly in conversation with Neil LaBute's "The Wicker Man" remake. To paraphrase Eli Cash from "Royal Tennenbaums," everyone knows Nicolas Cage was overacting when the bees stung him. What "Jackass Forever" presupposes is ... maybe he wasn't?
This movie features a sequence in which a queen bee is placed on a naked Steve-O's penis. Then a hive of bees, protecting their Queen, descend directly upon his genitalia and proceed to sting incessantly. To director Jeff Tremaine's credit, the entire affair plays as much like body horror as not. Most of the Jackass crew are caught between awe and alarm. There is no underscoring to heighten or dull the mounting sense of dread, only an unflinching shot of Steve-O's junk covered in so many members of the Apidae family that nothing makes sense anymore. Sometimes you laugh to keep from crying. The bee sequence is the rare moment when you laugh to keep from shrieking in the pit of your soul. Nicolas Cage is vindicated.
The Electric Dance
There are few provocateurs more expert than the "Jackass" gang, but Tyler The Creator is one of them. A shirt from his GOLF clothing line contrasted the LGBT rainbow flag with an image of the Celtic cross. In a GQ article literally titled "Tyler The Provocateur," Tyler opines, "When you finally find someone to listen to you after years of not being taken seriously, you hold that sh*t to your heart."
The Jackass boys take Tyler seriously, and vice versa. That's why Tyler commits to miming jazz piano for the whole of "Electric Dance," a sketch in which his Odd Future cohort Jasper Dolphin cuts a rug upon electrified flooring. When he gets shocked it's funny, but when Tyler discovers a trigger under his piano bench and accuses the crew (preemptively) of shocking him, it's funnier. Tyler then gets shocked. Expert provocateur that he is, Tyler gets director Jeff Tremaine upon that piano bench. The jolt Tremaine takes is one of the film's funniest moments, a shift in power balance that confirms how artful and shocking a "Jackass" co-sign can be. The gang took Tyler seriously and he — an exquisite tastemaker — rewarded them with one of the film's most wild and layered moments. Game recognizes game.
The Lie Detector Test
This is a Danger Ehren appreciation post. No one understands the "Jackass" assignment more than Ehren, not even Johnny Knoxville. As ringleader and captain, Knoxville must sink to the assignment and remind the gang why he belongs (see: the Bull stunt). Ehren, by contrast, is always mid-assignment. There is no moment where the stunt performer isn't in danger of being punked within a punk, where his body isn't primed for recklessness, where he isn't ready to narrate that recklessness in real-time with low-key showman's craft. Ehren is a miracle.
There are five seconds in the "Bear" stunt — the one that ended that infamous trailer we watched for years — where you genuinely believe Ehren's time on Earth could be coming to an end. Where it appears that the honey and salmon Knoxville has poured upon his head have coaxed an actual brown bear not only into hunger but violence. It is a moment that would break most of us, and Ehren somehow understands his assignment: Be afraid, keep talking, and subvert expectations. Crazy? Of course, but that's the job. Somehow, in a moment where most of us would flee, Ehren fights to perform better. There's no one else like him.
The Cup Test
Sometimes simple pleasures are best. To be clear, there isn't anything objectively simple or pleasurable for Danger Ehren in "The Cup Test." It takes place across multiple occasions and involves four professional athletes, each of whom is dead set on obliterating the protections around the stunt performer's scrotum sack. One, Francis Ngannou, holds the world record for hardest thrown punch. Guess what he tries to replicate here.
If you're wincing already, that's the power of "The Cup Test." If you think the stunt builds to the MMA heavyweight's blow then boy are you mistaken. What makes "The Cup Test" so good is how many disparate people from different disciplines get on its wavelength, how often it subverts expectations for being so straightforward, and how it seems to fold multiple cultures into its deeply cathartic stupidity. By the time the final blow gets struck, a kind of euphoria's been culled. As with the best simple pleasures, their yield is anything but simple, but it is the best.
The Silence Of The Lambs
Man. Where to even start? How about with a description: Performers are brought into a room with Johnny Knoxville and a large, poisonous snake. They are told they're peanut gallery for a stunt involving Knoxville and said reptile. When the gallery is then distracted, Knoxville switches out the snake with a fake, shuts the door, cuts the room's lights, and screams "Welcome to hell." The performers believe they're in the dark with a deadly beast. Chaos ensues.
Is it the funniest stunt in "Jackass Forever?" By a mile. For one, it's a psychologically piercing look into the mindset of performers who excel when the chips are down. Here, they're down bad, and the ways each reacts — from panicking to embracing the madness — is a rare glimpse into each. For another, it's a sketch where someone tries to escape a dark room only to run into a hanging field of pots and mouse traps. That's objectively incredible. The combination of brains and bone-deep stupidity made this single segment what made me laugh hardest since the year 2020. It is the best stunt in "Jackass Forever."
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