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Review: Our favorite crash-test dummies return in ‘Jackass’

February 2, 2022 GMT
This image released by Paramount Pictures shows Danger Ehren, left, and Johnny Knoxville in a scene from "Jackass Forever." (Sean Cliver/Paramount Pictures via AP)
This image released by Paramount Pictures shows Danger Ehren, left, and Johnny Knoxville in a scene from "Jackass Forever." (Sean Cliver/Paramount Pictures via AP)
This image released by Paramount Pictures shows Danger Ehren, left, and Johnny Knoxville in a scene from "Jackass Forever." (Sean Cliver/Paramount Pictures via AP)
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This image released by Paramount Pictures shows Danger Ehren, left, and Johnny Knoxville in a scene from "Jackass Forever." (Sean Cliver/Paramount Pictures via AP)
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This image released by Paramount Pictures shows Danger Ehren, left, and Johnny Knoxville in a scene from "Jackass Forever." (Sean Cliver/Paramount Pictures via AP)

Pity those in charge of COVID-19 protocols on “Jackass Forever.”

Imagine, just for starters, the challenges of monitoring the health of participants in something called the “Vomitron.” I could describe this particular contraption of Johnny Knoxville’s but the name pretty much speaks for itself.

Masks are seen here and there among the crew of “Jackass Forever,” but they seem almost comical when, just a few feet away, someone is being drenched in pig semen or luring a hive of bees to their penis. Exposure isn’t something to be mitigated in “Jackass,” a bruised and fleshy world of saggy tummies, soiled underwear and so, so many testicles. It’s a way of life.

It’s also never seemed a particularly sustainable way of life. Just how many crotch shots can one take? But, more than 20 years after “Jackass” first premiered on MTV in 2000, Knoxville and company, now in their 40s and 50s, are still trying to answer such eternal questions while also pursuing some personal white whales like actually, finally lighting a fart on fire underwater.

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“It’s good to have dreams,” someone says.

What began as gonzo stunts carried out with the fearlessness of youth have steadily morphed into a protest against maturity. Knoxville’s hair is now gray (though it sometimes switches in “Jackass Forever” back to dyed black) and the recovery times for Stephen “Steve-O” Glover and Jason “Wee Man” Acuña are presumably longer. One line more or less sums up their predicament: “He’s bleeding. My hairline is receding.”

But the daredevil this-is-so-stupid pranks are much the same, sometimes exactly so. Knoxville again tussles with a bull, who leaves him concussed and with multiple broken bones. As he’s stretchered off, his merry band applauds him with shouts of “Captain!”

Other things have changed, some of them unspoken. We know more now, for example, about the lasting effects of head trauma. The nastier bits of self-inflicted suffering also have strange echoes with the abuses of Abu Ghraib, which were likewise carried out with mugging for a camera. In the tradition of American torture, “Jackass” is the Looney Tunes variety.

But the “Jackass” ethos — that none of us are so precious that we can’t survive a snake bite or a pogo stick to the groin — still has charm. The “Jackass” gang make for a rollicking antidote to the beautiful, unblemished people who play superheroes that never so much as bleed. Here, there are no such delusions about humanity. Theirs is a real-life Fight Club, just with a whole lot more cackling.

Masculinity is a joke for the guys of “Jackass” but brotherhood isn’t. The appeal of “Jackass” — now up to four films, all directed by Jeff Tremaine — is so predicated on the group support and belly-laugh reactions around the stunts. Here, their impish band has been enlarged.

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Along with regulars including Chris Pontius, Dave England, Danger Ehren and Preston Lacy are new additions like YouTube star Zach Holmes and surfer Sean “Poopies” McInerney. (Absent are Ryan Dunn, who died in a car crash in 2011 and Bam Margera, who has filed a lawsuit after being fired from the production.) Comedian Rachel Wolfson, the first woman to join the crew, gets in on the action in a segment called “Scorpion Botox.” The largely white “Jackass” group is also joined by several Black members including Eric Manaka and Jasper, of Odd Future, along with his father. Guest stars include Machine Gun Kelly, Eric Andre and Tyler, the Creator.

The only real membership requirement for “Jackass” seems to be that pain is universally shared — no one is exempt — and that afterward you can laugh it off. What good is a “triple wedgie” if you can’t share it with your pals? It’s a formula that’s been little changed in “Jackass” since its inception. But, you know. If it ain’t broke.

“Jackass Forever,” a Paramount Pictures release, is rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America for strong crude material and dangerous stunts, graphic nudity and language throughout. Running time: 96 minutes. Two and a half stars out of four.

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Follow AP Film Writer Jake Coyle on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/jakecoyleAP