Well, it finally happened. Having frequently wept with laughter during MTV's Jackass series, 2002's Jackass: The Movie, and 2006's Jackass Number Two, Johnny Knoxville and his incorrigible extreme-stunt companions, in director Jeff Tremaine's Jackass 3D, got me crying for an altogether different reason.
I'm presuming you know the basic Jackass formula: Knoxville, Steve-O, Chris Pontius, Bam Margera, and the rest of this utterly shameless unit stage a succession of hazardous and repellent physical challenges and practical jokes, all presented with the sole purpose of making you cackle as hard as the skits' participants. Of course, the phrase "sole purpose" isn't really accurate; if you happen to get a little queasy during the on-screen surges of urine, excrement, and puke, that's probably all right with them, too.
Which brings us to a charming little segment titled "Sweatsuit Cocktail." In it, a jockstrap-clad Preston Lacy - the game and morbidly obese Jackass player who's also credited with writing this second sequel - is wrapped entirely in cellophane, and begins a light workout on a treadmill. Extra-large gentleman that he is, it's not long before the sweat begins to pour, at which point his pals start to drain the suit and collect the perspiration in a plastic cup. After it's roughly one-third full, the heroically ballsy Steve-O - long known for his willingness to eat or drink absolutely anything placed in front of him - takes the cup, grimaces, and ... .
And here come the tears again. Suffice it to say that "Sweatsuit Cocktail" concluded with Steve-O vomiting, the cameraman vomiting (always an indicator, in these films, of a particularly successful stunt), and me, for the first time during my 10-year Jackass fandom, having to turn my head away from the screen for fear of adding my own 3D contribution to the moment.
Of course, while I came dangerously close to retching, I'm not sure I ever stopped laughing, either. And that, at its best, is the experience of Jackass 3D, a patchy, hit-or-miss affair in which the hits (mostly to the crotch) manage to provide one explosion of brainless happiness after another. More than a few segments here - especially the slow-motion sequences in which unsuspecting victims get clobbered Rocky-style - just appear to be marking time, and the 3D presentation is, arguably and sadly, the movie's most disappointing element; beyond the opening credits and the climactic blow-'em-up, the effects are employed almost insultingly sparingly. (We do get two or three satisfying, in-your-face gross-outs, the best coming during the closing reel's "Poo Cocktail Supreme" number, but not nearly enough of them to warrant a higher ticket price.) But while Jackass 3D is, as usual with these things, a little repetitive and a lot cobbled-together, it's also something that only a few Hollywood entertainments are these days: wholly, and joyously, fearless.
That's not to say that Knoxville and his gang are themselves without fear, and one of this sequel's most fascinating aspects is how the members of the Jackass clan - most of them now inching up on 40 - noticeably blanch before attempting another potentially injurious stunt. Faced with the impending damage of a tee-ball shot to the nuts, Steve-O plaintively wails, "Why do I have to be Steve-O?!?", and throughout the film, you're privy to the understandable panic that our heroes, a decade ago, did an expert job at masking. (Or, possibly, not feeling at all.) Yet their panic here is funny. The guys whine and tremble before pulling another crazy-ass stunt, but you laugh because you know they're going to pull it anyway, and the realization that neither you nor they know what's going to happen to them lends a jolt of comic adrenaline to their every masochistic endeavor. ("What are we doing here?" asks one of the guys before a game of beehive tetherball, which is exactly what it sounds like. "Making a hit movie" is the response.)
Putting all this in simpler, more honest terms, Jackass 3D is, on more than a few occasions, piss-your-pants hilarious. I loved the literal game of pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey, and the body-waxing segment that found Lacy super-glued to Jason "Wee Man" Acuña, and could've watched an entire, 90-minute loop of the skit in which an airplane's revved-up propeller sends the guys flying like rag dolls. The "Lamborghini Tooth Pull" bit is as painful as its title makes it sound yet far more hilarious; the scenes involving the miniatures - most notably the one boasting the, ahem, active volcano - were priceless. And there are really no words to describe the aforementioned "Poo Cocktail Supreme," in which Steve-O bungee jumps from inside a filled-to-brimming Porta Potty, except maybe through Pontius' words: "It had danger, it had shit, it had puke ... it had sex appeal ... !" The format may, by now, be overly familiar, but Jackass 3D is still wonderfully good bad fun.
Director Robert Schwentke's action-comedy RED - the film's title an acronym for "Retired & Extremely Dangerous" - concerns a group of former CIA black-ops who reunite when Bruce Willis' team leader is targeted for assassination, and watching the movie, I slowly began feeling like a very old, and very cranky, person myself. I mean, come on, Mr. Schwentke: You've got Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, Helen Mirren, Mary-Louise Parker, Brian Cox, Richard Dreyfuss, and even Ernest Borgnine in this thing. Couldn't we have done with a few less shoot-outs and a little less shattering glass? Just let Freeman and Mirren talk, fer chrissakes! I'm not sure I've ever been so bored by a movie with a cast this exceptional, but during long passages in RED, I was all but rendered unconscious by the incoherent spy-thriller plotting, tired chase scenes, and Willis' continued determination not to move his facial muscles by so much as a millimeter. Despite playing a role nearly identical to the one Cameron Diaz just played in Knight & Day, the vibrant, delightfully eccentric Parker manages to walk away with best-in-show honors, and Mirren and Cox have a few lovely, funny moments of flirtation. But Malkovich, as he is in the current Secretariat, is used merely as a walking running gag - was it really necessary, in one scene, to have the famously hammy actor walk around toting a stuffed pink pig? - and I wanted to slap the filmmakers for the jokey capper set in Moldova, which manages to trash whatever claims to legitimacy were established in the 110 minutes prior. A graphic-novel adaptation that's neither graphic nor novel (Discuss!), the halfhearted "blockbuster" RED left this viewer, at least, awfully blue.