There's a scene near the beginning of Jacka‑‑ 3 in which the audience sees a toy train trundling around a picturesque miniature landscape. Fake shrubbery coats the hills and dales. A small plane hovers above. A plastic figure surveys the landscape.
And then you notice a green hillside that doesn't quite blend in with its surroundings. And, as I sat in the theater, I wondered to myself, "Is this someone's shaved head? Is this about to become some sort of Pythonesque skit?
The hill in question was actually someone's bare backside painted green—one that quickly erupts. And the eruption marks not the end of the scene, but the beginning. We must sit through slow-motion replays. We must hear the cast and crew laugh and celebrate their latest cinematic triumph. And we watch as several of them vomit.
The Miseducation of Johnny Knoxville
That, I believe, should tell you all you need to know about this film. It's not the foulest moment in the movie, but it is representative.
Those familiar with Johnny Knoxville's previous work know that these films (and the MTV show that spawned them) are little more than a strung-together series of wince-inducing stunts—a juvenile fantasy that's one part crazy YouTube video and four parts disgusting. There is no moral, no inspiring narrative sadly mired by problematic content. There is no narrative, period.
Some of the stunts are dangerous, most are stupid and a few may make sensitive viewers tighten their abdomens to keep from throwing up themselves. The stuntmen are all willing participants (though, given some of the things they do, it makes you wonder whether Knoxville is holding their family members hostage somewhere).
At its least offensive, Jacka‑‑ feels like some inane form of Mythbusters. We've all asked ourselves, "What would happen if …?" Well, Knoxville and Co. educate us. When we see Johnny tackled by All-Pro Minnesota Vikings defensive end Jared Allen, for instance, we get as close as most of us would ever want to come to the NFL. "Speed and velocity equals that," Allen says, pointing to Knoxville, writhing on the ground.
But the movie rarely reaches even that level.
Let me give you a quick—and incomplete—rundown of some of the film's content. And before you read it, let me say again that even my attempt at a sanitized description of these sick shenanigans is still worthy of a disclaimer.
Warning: Foul Content Below
For starters, two cast members are superglued together, with their faces pointed at each other's crotches. Chris Pontius goes fully nude at times, performing various stunts with his penis, including hitting what appears to be a golf or Ping-Pong ball with it. "[We had] the most expensive 3-D camera ever made," director Jeff Tremaine told MTV, "and we decide to shoot wiener baseball with it." We also see several other people's behinds—with various items both going into them and coming out.
Borat-style skits include one in which a seemingly old man passionately kisses and fondles a woman he identifies as his "granddaughter" in public. (He explains to passers-by that she is "of age.") Another gag involves a sex toy that appears to be shot right at us, the audience, before it finally hits someone's cheek onscreen. Near the show's conclusion we see Knoxville carrying a bowl of dildos; during the credits, we watch as a woodpecker hammers away at a wooden one strapped to Pontius' crotch.
Men are shown in jockstraps, Speedos, skimpy underwear and bikini tops. Cast members get butted by rams, kicked by donkeys, knocked around by bulls and buffalo, smacked with tomatoes powered by a jet engine, bashed with fish, thwacked with giant hands and stung by bees. They also have teeth pulled by Lamborghinis. They run through a gauntlet of stun guns and cattle prods. And they're bitten by attack dogs.
People scream and shout and swear in serious pain, but no one ever seems to get seriously hurt, though we do see Knoxville's rear being treated by paramedics for dog bites at one point, and he lands awkwardly on his neck and head after being tossed in the air by a bull. (The landing looks as if it easily could've snapped the guy's neck.)
Characters spew upwards of 90 f-words, 50 s-words and a host of other vulgarities ("a‑‑," "b‑‑ch," "h‑‑‑," "p---" and "c‑‑ks‑‑‑‑‑"). God's name is misused nearly 20 times, often paired with "d‑‑n," and Jesus' name is abused at least three times.
"That's What This Show's All About."
For all that, we've barely even touched on how disgusting some of the stunts are. Really. Preston Lacy, the obligatory obese cast member, works out on a treadmill wearing nothing but a swath of plastic. That plastic collects the various liquids Lacy secretes, which are then squeezed out into a cup and given to someone to drink. Another wretch-inducing skit involves an apple, a pig and Lacy's rear end.
In a skit of sorts dubbed "Poo Cocktail Supreme," Steve-O gets strapped into a portable toilet, and said porta-potty is subsequently launched airborne courtesy of bungee cords. The enclosure is, naturally, full of excrement. "It had danger, it had s‑‑‑, it had puke," Pontius crows afterwards. "That's what this show's all about."
And that, my friends, is a statement that's all too true.
One final note: As the credits roll, we see pictures of the cast as children, and someone sings a nostalgic song about how nice it would be to be young again.
I suppose that must be the franchise's appeal to its fans: It's a return to a time when a bunch of immature wiseacres would dare each other to jump out of a tree or do some disgusting deed. I was never one of these folks myself, but I knew my share of them. Perhaps, for them, such stunts recall the happy, carefree—not to mention violent—days of youth.
Most of us mercifully outgrow those days. Knoxville and his crew haven't. In fact, it seems they're regressing.