Call it distasteful, crude, the lowest form of culture-coarsening trash. Or, in the thoughtful words of a critic sitting beside me at the screening: “Oh no no no no bad idea BAD IDEA that’s no no no no please no stop no what a stupid thing you’re doing to yourself no no no no no nooooooo!!!”
Jackass Number Two will reduce all who see it to such a helpless state. Whether that translates to mirth or nausea will be a matter of taste. But the pure power of this movie is pretty much incontestable. Surprisingly durable—even a touch experimental—at feature length, the moron-simple concept of Johnny Knoxville and his all-male company taking on lunatic challenges continues to accrue deeper meanings. Satire of bro culture? Scatological romp? Sublimated gay tragedy? All of the above?
Truthfully, few of the stunts here have the Zen sublimity of some of the best chapters from the first Jackass movie, a 2002 smash (“Wasabi Snooters” or “Off-Road Tattoo” come to mind). But you will see a man taunting a hungry snake with his penis. You will see a leech applied to an eyeball. There’s even a final foray into stunning political insensitivity. To hear Knoxville’s redemptive cackle is to know he’s arrived at the work of his career. If he gets there strapped to the back of a homemade rocket, so be it. (Now playing; Click here for venues.) — Joshua Rothkopf