movieguru (2007-52)

Jackass Nation

Movie Guru

By releasing the dregs of Jackass online, a new marketing stunt is born

by Coury Turczyn

Back when Jackass began terrorizing parents on MTV at the turn of the century, the big fear was that the showâ’s self-mutilating antics would be imitated by kids, resulting in a generation of disfigured underachievers. While this has more or less occurred, the final result is something even worse: Jackass created an insatiable public appetite for extreme stupidity, more-so than at any other time in our history as a republic.

Where the Internet was once dominated by the perfectly understandable medium of pornography, itâ’s now clogged with videos of people throwing themselves off roofs, lighting themselves on fire, and getting kicked in the â‘nads. (Yes, it is a scientific fact that 90 percent of viral videos are shot and enacted by young men.) This sub-sub-genre of Americaâ’s Funniest Home Videos is so beloved that itâ’s inspired waves of dorks trying to get their lame videos onto websites like Heavy.com, Ebaumsworld.com, Collegehumor.com, and dozens of other belated entries attempting to cash in (including the very honest Stupidvideos.com). But the dumbassery isnâ’t limited to hurting yourself and your friendsâ"it now includes every aspect of human existence, from weddings gone violently wrong to babies on the rampage. We are living in a Jackass nation in which people feel compelled to broadcast unfortunate, contrived moments of their lives to the world in the hope of becoming YouTube superstars.

So itâ’s fitting that the newest addition to the Jackass canon is now premiering online; Jackass 2.5 is being touted as â“the first-ever studio-backed feature streamed in its entirety online.â” So, right now, courtesy of Blockbuster, you may see Jackass 2.5 for free. Yes, all the defecating, urinating, bleeding, puking fun of previously unseen Jackass is available to you after but a short registration process. But be forewarned: this 64-minute â“featureâ” might as well have been subtitled â“The Leftovers of Jackass Number Two.â”

What we really have here are the outtakes from the second Jackass movie, the bits and pieces that didnâ’t quite make the cut. So if you can just imagine the kinds of gags that didnâ’t reach the high standards of excellence usually displayed by the Jackass visionaries, then you pretty much have already seen the movie in your own head. Itâ’s not unlike watching the user-generated clips of Jackass-wannabes available everywhere else, but with the addition of interviews with the cast about why the stunts werenâ’t any good. So not only do we get to watch unfunny segments, but weâ’re also told why theyâ’re unfunny. Register online now!

In fact, all throughout Jackass 2.5â’s scenes, the guys comment on how this particular footage will â“end up being a DVD extra.â” And, in fact, what Paramount and MTV have really done is simply make a DVD-style mini-doc of failed movie stunts, called it a feature, and released it online with a full-on marketing push crowing over its history-making Internet â“first.â” Except that, like most DVD mini-docs, it kinda sucks.

The appeal of the original Jackass was its novel combination of fearless stupidity and bizarre scenarios. But the set-ups in Jackass 2.5â"which the guys claim to be â“skitsâ” that they â“writeâ”â"mostly fizzle. Some of the more interesting gags include the rotund Preston Lacey dressing up as an ape, climbing up on a port-a-potty, and then being assailed by RC model airplanes like King Kong (though seeing him quiver in fear is more depressing than anything else). Director Spike Jonze shows up to don old-lady prosthetics along with Johnny Knoxville as an old man, and they individually walk around annoying people. The entire team jumps on mini-bikes and drive into a grocery store, unleashing mayhem. A trip to India results in the boys being freaked out by a cult whose members are serious jackasses.

Other than that, things mostly devolve into a mess of bodily fluids as the guys stand around shirtless and guffaw as one of their buddies has something inserted into his rectum. It all gets more than a little pathetic. While Johnny has enough charm and wit to carry him through to an acting career, itâ’s clear that the other guysâ"Bam, Chris, Vincent, Steve-O, Preston, and the restâ"have attained the heights of their careers. This is pretty much all they can do: Take a dump, and wait for the applause.

Rental Hygiene

Two-Lane Blacktop

What is a car-racing movie with almost no car-racing footage? Thatâ’s but one of the Zen koans making up the greater enigma that is director Monte Hellmanâ’s 1971 cult fave, now out in a loving two-disc Criterion Collection edition.

The questions pile up quick: Is that patrician singer/songwriter James Taylor playing the nameless dirtball driver? (Yes, it is.) And is his mechanic buddy really Dennis Wilson from the Beach Boys? (Yes, oddly enough.) Why donâ’t they say anything when some strange girl (waifish Laurie Bird) climbs in the back of their stripped-down primer-gray â’55 Chevy street rod and heads off down the road with them? Whatâ’s wrong with Warren Oatesâ’ character? What does it all mean?

Hellman made a specialty out of laconic explorations of masculinity (see also 1974â’s Oates-starring Cockfighter) and laconic is definitely the word for Taylor and Wilsonâ’s characters, who barely say anything unless itâ’s about cars. Drifting across country from street race to street race with Birdâ’s character in tow, they run into Oatesâ’ â“G.T.O.,â” a v-neck-clad logorrheic in Detroit stock muscle who might be a former test pilot, or just a compulsive liar. A series of almost accidental encounters turns into a cross-country race, but it soon becomes apparent that no one really cares about the ostensible stakes (pink slips); thereâ’s more, and less, at issue here.

Taylor is no actor, but since heâ’s mainly required to convey distant inchoate assholeness, he doesnâ’t have much to mess up (seeing this performance makes it easier to imagine the avuncular JT as the degenerate junkie he once was). Wilson is just along for the ride, but Oates burnishes his Character Actor Hall of Fame plaque with every stroke. While thereâ’s no real plot and no real â“point,â” Hellman captures a particular kind of existential Y-chromosome rootlessness to perfection. â" Lee Gardner

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All content © 2007 Metropulse .