3-D probably wasn’t created specifically so that one day, emotionally stunted eternal adolescents could send dildos, vomit, and feces flying at audiences in all three dimensions. And yet there’s a method to the madness of using advanced technology to enhance the experience of, say, a dude getting hit in the nuts with a tee-ball. Much of Jackass’ appeal lies in the literally bruising physicality of its stunts. The franchise aims for empathetic cries of “ouch” as much as laughs, so male viewers would reflexively guard their crotches even if Jackasses were getting hit in the nuts in mere 2-D. In Jackass 3-D, the trendy technology adds a whole new level of impact to the shenanigans, though it’s only a factor in a handful of setpieces.
Johnny Knoxville returns with his merry band of pranksters for a third exuberantly juvenile collection of wacky pranks, blackout gags, gross-out stunts, and people cackling maniacally while their friends endure horrible pain. Jackass 3-D proves every bit as ragingly homoerotic as its predecessors: To the cast and crew, the ways anuses can be used, and more importantly, abused proves a source of endless fascination, as does watching morbidly obese men clad only in jock straps.
Jackass 3-D is powered by a shamelessly regressive but infectious adolescent prankishness. Knoxville holds the whole scatological mess together with his irascible charm and leading-man charisma, though Jackass 3-D is an ensemble film in the truest sense, in that nearly everyone in the sprawling, endlessly game cast endures some manner of damage to their genitals and lives to laugh about it. A few of the bits smartly riff on pop culture; in a particularly inspired stunt, Knoxville sets out to personally disprove Roger Miller’s contention that you can’t roller-skate in a buffalo herd, and pays dearly for his hubris. By this point, the Jackass franchise is nearly as old as its target audience of misbehaving pre-adolescents, and while it isn’t as fresh or novel as it once was, Jackass 3-D retains a winningly anarchic spirit. It’s easily the most painful comedy of the year; in the sadomasochistic world of Knoxville and friends, that isn’t criticism so much as high praise.