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Machine Gun Kelly, Johnny Knoxville, and Steve-O in Jackass Forever, from Paramount Pictures and MTV Entertainment Studios.Sean Cliver/Paramount Pictures

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Jackass Forever

Directed by Jeff Tremaine

Starring Johnny Knoxville, Steve-O and Chris Pontius

Classification R; 96 minutes

Opens Feb. 4 in theatres

Critic’s Pick

It is exceedingly difficult to write a review for the new movie Jackass Forever. Not because the plot is difficult to summarize (there is none). Or that it’s challenging to nail the film’s aesthetic (think Dollarama Chic). Really, the hard part about honestly critiquing any Jackass movie (this is No. 4) is that I watched a good deal of it while either covering my eyes, gritting my teeth, grimacing so hard that my jaw snapped, yelping in half-mock terror, suppressing the urge to throw up or laughing maniacally.

I cannot imagine that anyone still reading this review isn’t already a fan/willing victim of the Jackass franchise, which is now 20 years old. Simply put: If you aren’t familiar with the groin-punch antics of Johnny Knoxville and his perverted band of punk-stunt misfits, then just flip the page/open a new tab. By this point in its medically induced lifespan, the Jackass Cinematic Universe is strictly for a highly specific demographic of old-school fans and young audiences with a taste for anarchic extremes. Those who like it, like it a lot (”it” being grown men, and this time a woman, too, subjecting themselves to jaw-dropping tests of physical endurance).

As with previous installments, Jackass Forever has no narrative through-line, and is simply a collection of stunts/sketches in which our concussed heroes subject themselves to all manner of high-dumb exercises. For the Jackass-colytes reading, I won’t spoil the specifics except to say that there are bits entitled Human Ramp, Cup Test, Vomitron and Magic Trick (that last one a particularly brutal act undertaken by ringleader Knoxville). There are familiar faces (Steve-O, Chris Pontius, Danger Ehren), fresh-faced participants (a genuinely charming fellow named Poopie) and some special celebrity guest stars (including one Canadian hockey great) eager to get in on the god-make-it-stopppppp “fun.”

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As ever, there is a subversive method to the crew's madness in Jackass Forever.Sean Cliver/Paramount Pictures

I can sympathize with the skeptics who take one look at Jackass’s cultural durability and shake their heads in disgust over the state of the world. But, as ever, there is a subversive method to Knoxville’s madness: an obsessive, and impressive, drive to tease the forever-blurry lines between comedy and pain. Better than anyone working in Hollywood today, the Jackass crew understand Mel Brooks’s old maxim that tragedy is when you cut your finger – comedy is when you fall into an open sewer and die.

That said, I wish Knoxville and regular Jackass director Jeff Tremaine swerved into the absolute absurdity of shooting the film in the midst of the pandemic. There are brief flashes of crew members wearing masks (including one cameraman who vomits into his N95), a quick line about “even when there’s an outbreak, you’re blowing people up” and a thank-you note buried in the end credits thanking the production’s COVID-compliance team. I’m no doctor, but something tells me that the film sparked more hospital visits owing to damaged testicles than anything related to a respiratory illness.

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