Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Jackass Number Two (2006)

In which the Jackass boys reveal themselves to be smarter than anyone was imaging. Naturally, this being a sequel, it's gotta have more of everything: more crazy stunts, more disgusting pranks, more latent homosexuality. And yeah, it's still damn funny in an oh-my-God-I-can't-believe-they-just-did-that kind of way. I'm convinced there's more to this than mere shock value, though. Here's the thing -- by advancing their aesthetic from one-step-beyond to twelve-steps-beyond, Johnny Knoxville and company, whether accidentally or by design align themselves with certain avant-garde fringe movements. (If they'd gotten Steve-O to eat his own vomit in the 'fart mask' scene, they'd be indistinguishable from the Vienna Actionists.) Furthermore, the ramping-up of the queer content shifts it from latent to baldly open. This is the biggest celebration of radical queer sexuality you'll ever see in a multiplex, gayer than a thousand pride parades. And it was somewhere between Bam Margera getting a golden dildo shot into his ass and Steve-O doing an anal beer bong, then having beer plungered out of his rectum, resulting in what can only be described as a really foamy money shot, that I began to suspect that this was by design. (And that's not even counting the John Waters cameo.) Still, it wasn't until the last sequence, which starts with Knoxville sticking his hand in a bear trap and turns into... well, something else (don't want to ruin the surprise, after all) that it all clicked: Yes, they're in on the joke, and everything that you think you're finding by accident is there on purpose. They're perfectly willing to acknowledge their place in both the history of slapstick (Knoxville goes as far as to recreate one of Buster Keaton's most famous stunts as a finale) and the Queer Cinema canon, and there's something indescribably thrilling about that -- it shows them to be genuine gonzo artists, using their own bodies as canvases to drive home their points. And what is that point? Undeniably, part of it is that it's fun to watch guys do dumb stuff; however, I'd also like to theorize that they're blowing open the frat-boy mentality and demonstrating to an unsuspecting audience that much of the dudeish male bonding on which current American culture is built is in fact heavily coded man-on-man fucking. And not only are they pointing it out, they're saying that it's not a bad thing -- if anything, the queer aspect of male bonding is something these guys are celebrating and shouting about from the hills. I left the theater, eyes assaulted and mind fully blown, astonished by the bleeding, screaming art-punk terrorism to which I'd just borne witness. Jackass: Redefining male sexuality for the new century.

Grade: A


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