Everybody poops

Jackass: Number Two is the epitome of a guilty pleasure — emphasis on “pleasure.” (Oh, and equal emphasis on “guilty.”)

Jackass: Number Two
Dir. Jeff Tremaine; writ. Sean Cliver, Preston Lacy; feat. Johnny Knoxville, Bam Margera, Steve-O, Chris Pontius, Lacy, Ryan Dunn, Ehren McGhehey, Jason Acuña, Dave England (R)
It’s only about five minutes or so (or, if you prefer, two pranks-from-hell/stuntmen-on-meth vignettes) into the gleeful, psychotic-slapstick exhibition Jackass: Number Two before it hits you: relief, coupled with the overwhelming compulsion to throw your trembling hands to heaven and humbly thank the merciful deity of your choice that you don’t have friends like the ones you’re watching.

Sure, when I was in high school it wasn’t altogether unheard-of for a teammate to get a modest layer of Icy Hot slathered into the business end of his “athletic supporter.” Yes, I’ve boarded my share of pilfered (not by me, mind you) and misappropriated grocery carts, to be steered by what I presume were ultimately well-meaning pals into the nearest stationary obstacle. And certainly I’ve served as witness on more than one occasion to the uniquely harrowing athletic tradition known as the Atomic Sit-Up. (It has many names, but if that phrase didn’t put a pit in your stomach, re-thank said deity.) But this was all circa my 17th or 18th year. Please, don’t mistake my meaning: I don’t intend to imply that I’m any more mature than the next guy (even the “next guy” who’ll, say, let a viper bite him on the dong for the sheer notoriety). Rather, I’ve simply become less limber, somewhat more fearful of bodily injury, and far less diligent about casting wary — but more importantly, alert — over-the-shoulder glances.

And, in essence, that’s a portion of the lasting impression left by pseudo-mythic ringleader Johnny Knoxville and company’s latest outing: Watch yer ass tirelessly, all ye who would enter here. Seriously, these guys really are world-class pricks to each other, and it can be palpably stressful — and not a little unpleasant — to watch.

Fortunately (or perhaps, damningly), that discomfort (some might name it “conscience”) is soothingly muzzled by this scatology-cum-violence variety show’s true emotional legacy: the hour-plus (and, faith, singularly entertaining) visceral carnival that is the continued struggle to avoid simultaneously crying, vomiting, and pissing and shitting yourself in public theater. Because that’s how hard you’re laughing. And that’s how thoroughly, perfectly disgusted you are — with yourself and with what’s amusing you. And that, ladies and gents, is Jackass.

This isn’t to say that J2 doesn’t legitimately earn its laughs. There are a number of bits that don’t directly involve blood, fecal matter, wanton male nudity, or animal ejaculate of any sort (granted, not a large number). (Note: Nude-dudes are here the most frequent offender: If Jackass: Number Two were a desktop computer, seething, frolicsome, barely restrained homoeroticism would be the default wallpaper.) But away with the pot-shots: There is a devilish, delightful, markedly impressive ingenuity to a fair amount of the shit this group pulls. The aforementioned second segment is so simply and tautly constructed, yet so exquisitely excruciating that it remains one of the most persistently tickling cinematic punchlines I’m able to summon. I just re-giggled, in fact.

Someday, years and years hence (assuming we survive Bird Flu, the war`s`, global warming, the sudden perforation and detachment of California — and, fuck, is SARS still out to get us?), these brazen, unapologetic Jackasses will be rediscovered and pored over as a once-lost, fascinating, appalling curiosity, like those now-distressingly-racist Dr. Seuss war-propaganda cartoons, or those kid-aimed ads where Fred Flintstone shills for Winstons. Incontrovertibly, your children, your little brother, your niece should not see Jackass: Number Two. You probably shouldn’t, either. But you will. And there are enough of these poop-free, admirably clever offerings (and enough of the other) that I can say with certainty that you’ll laugh harder and more consistently at this abbreviated-attention-span-fest than at just about anything else this year.
Hoo-boy. There goes the country.
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