Judge Ryan Keefer wonders what happened before Jackass, when television shows didn't have disclaimers.
Our reviews of Jackass: Volume 1 (published December 6th, 2005), Jackass: Volumes 2 And 3 (published December 10th, 2002), Jackass 2.5 (published December 24th, 2007), Jackass Number Two: Unrated Edition (published January 4th, 2007), Jackass: The Lost Tapes (published October 24th, 2009), Jackass: The Movie (published March 25th, 2003), and Jackass: The Movie: Unrated Special Collector's Edition (published September 5th, 2006) are also available.
"Hello, I'm Johnny Knoxville, welcome to Jackass!"
Making a good case as the 21st century incarnation of Beavis and Butt-head, Jackass arrives on store shelves. After a long (and presumably legal) delay in releasing the controversial first volume of episodes, Volume One comes nicely packaged in a boxed set with some extra material and goodies. Does it still hold up as being remotely entertaining?
Facts of the Case
Thinking about the great television moments and characters through history, one can easily draw a linear path to Jackass, right? You've got Lucille Ball, Milton Berle, Bill Cosby, Johnny Carson, John Belushi, Eddie Murphy, and Johnny Knoxville (Lords of Dogtown, Men in Black II), it makes all the sense in the world. Plus, it's not like Jackass should be singled out as the bastion of poor taste television. When people watch a buxom 24-year-old blonde eat animal genitalia on Fear Factor, they shouldn't have the right to complain when they see Paris Hilton "working" at an auto service shop, or Evander Holyfield "dancing" competitively. Watching Jackass won't stunt your growth, make you go blind, or prevent the country from winning the War on Terror, so lighten up already!
Well, in the short version of how Jackass came to realization, the writers of a skateboard magazine did some testing of some self-defense equipment, using Knoxville as a guinea pig for pepper spray, a tazer gun, and a bulletproof vest. Over on the East Coast, Bam Margera and his friends were shooting video for similar dumb stuff, and calling it cKy (short for Camp Kill Yourself). The two sides met and joined forces, resulting in a superhero of silly tricks and moronic stunts. With the help of Spike Jonze (Being John Malkovich, Adaptation.), an MTV show named Jackass was launched. The show was a meteoric success, becoming the most popular show on the network, and before long was made into a moderately successful film and helped set up two spin off shows. So how can a show that includes a man diving into a raw sewage pool be so much fun?
To tell you the truth, who knows? Maybe it's the appeal of a bunch of guys who lacked the common sense not to do things like slide down a hill using large blocks of ice for skis. Maybe it's a perverse envy that these guys are still doing pranks at 25 that many of us were castigated for doing at 15, and never did again. It may be a misguided attempt at viewing lost youth, but Jackass does make for some enticing viewing at times. Consider this: when a man in a skin-tight devil costume holds up a sign that says "Keep God out of California," another man approaches, breaks the sign and hits the man in the head, unprovoked. And very stupid, seeing as how all the man in the devil costume wants is for circumcisions to be made illegal. Now, is Jackass social commentary? Goodness no, far from it. When Knoxville jumps off a pier into the ocean wearing a suit of squid, if anyone can figure out what is being satirized there, they're reading far too much into the show than even critics would admit.
Now, not being familiar with the other DVD volumes, I don't know if they were presented episodically or not. What is definitely new is that commentaries have been recorded for them, along with the finally released Volume One. Since the volumes are presented as feature-length, running about an hour and a half to two hours, one can't really call it an episode commentary. Nevertheless, Knoxville, Bam Margera, Ryan Dunn (Viva La Bam), Steve-O, Chris Pontius (Wildboyz), and a cast of thousands join forces to provide commentary on approximately half of each disc's content. In a bit of irony, while the opening of each disc shows an obligatory warning about the profanity to follow, most of what is discussed is bleeped out. What's the point? What's not bleeped out is semi-funny, but mainly bland. Recorded over a couple of days and soaked with alcohol, there's a lot of mutual fun-poking with each other (mainly from the Viva La Bam and Wildboyz camps), and a lot of self-deprecation from everyone.
To Paramount's credit, not only is this set packaged nicely, but there's a fourth disc of extras and a decent sized booklet that comes with it that's full of pictures and recollections on show moments. The fourth disc has what may be the best part of the show: the filming of the Gumball Rally. In essence, the Gumball is what inspired the Cannonball Run, the ultimate road trip and party. In this case, Knoxville, Pontius, and Steve-O took a circuitous route starting from London, winding through France, Poland, Latvia, Russia, and Sweden (to name a few) before returning to the U.K. The catch was that this 3,000-mile trip had to be done in less than a week. And as is the case with road trips, it's equal parts mundane and comical, with some cool moments of mild suspense heading further into Eastern Europe. On the commentary track that accompanies this, Knoxville and the boys talk about the people and experiences, along with what happened in the back seat of the Jaguar. Trust me, you're better off not knowing, and I won't tell you. There's another feature that takes care of those who were intensely curious on what Dave England was doing now, a "Where Are They Now?" look, that's actually fun to watch. And in large part, it's because it's basic and to the point, letting everyone provide their memories of the show, on and off camera. The usual questions are answered too, like favorite moments, characters, injuries suffered, you name it. Along with these features is the usual MTV filler material that everyone has seen several times. The Cribs episode is 5-6 minutes on the homes of Margera, Pontius, Steve-O, Dunn, and others, and some of the cast members appeared at the Video Music Awards, and this footage is here too. There's a stills gallery and some previews, but the last material is when Brad Pitt (yes, that Brad Pitt, of Se7en, Troy, and Fight Club fame) joins the gang for some hijinks. While the segment with him being kidnapped is initially funny, it makes you feel dirty upon further examination. Kind of like pie. It tastes good, but makes you feel drastically fat.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Show aficionados beware, here's what's missing from the original episodes: there does appear to be some missing content, particularly a couple of segments with Knoxville, one where he's wearing a suit of meat and lies on a large barbecue pit. Perhaps these were cut for legal reasons, but who knows. The other gripe is that some of the more recognizable music is missing, most likely due to rights issues, which is a bit of a shame. The show intros and credit rolls are missing, which take away from the show's charm. One more thing; why did no one think to put a camera on these guys during the commentary? Something tells me that it would be worth the money that's being charged for this set.
Aside from any concerns or complaints about what's on the discs themselves, the effort to provide fans a comprehensive look at the show is admirable. I liked the show, and although there are gaps in what was originally broadcast, there's not much that can be done about them.
The Jackass boys are found not guilty for their antics, but Paramount is guilty for the content of this set. Their efforts are commendable, but hard-core fans of the show would almost consider this incomplete at best, shoddy at worst.
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