Return to where it first began. Looking back on twenty years of Jackass is surprising not just because most of the fans were new-born at the time of this first release, but because of the genuine cultural impact this group had. A whole generation learned how not to take a riot bullet to the stomach, a punch to the head from Butterbean or to go toe-to-toe with skateboarding pandas. These are wise life lessons contained within this Jeff Tremaine feature, one that inspired a love for danger and respect for it too. Not because Johnny Knoxville, Steve-O and company are dumb for damaging themselves, but because it is clearer and clearer that the adrenaline-junkie group are dead set on exploiting themselves into having a good time. It works exceptionally well.
What strikes rather well with Jackass is its pacing. Heavy metal guitar riffs for the rent-a-car demolition derby make for a grand introduction. Danger is there, but also the appeal of humour and dangerous attitude can be found within as well. No damage is done to the third party, just their property, or their day. The golf course airhorn springs to mind. It is hard to feel bad for the jackasses trying to perfect their swing as Knoxville shoots out an airhorn just as they’re about to strike. One day ruined is nothing compared to millions of days brightened by the hilarity on show in this feature debut of the Jackass series. Damage inflicted on the group stays within the group, which has always been the nice part of Jackass.
The appeal of Jackass reaches beyond conventional comedy. This is a simple series of devastating stunts and gross-out moments. Sketches are used as padding, fading in and out between longer running gags. A toy car in the anus, rocket boots and Chris Pontius dancing around in his party boy gimmick. Nearly all of his participation and involvement has something, somehow, to do with him either stripping off or dealing damage to his penis. It is never explained as to why that is, but at least he has his niche. They all do. Preston Lacy is used much less in this one, as is Wee Man. They’re finding their feet as bit-players and assets to the Bam Margera gags, which do turn the stomach a bit. One of these “pranks” is that he beats up his dad. Not exactly the creativity on display in future releases.
Party boy, crocodiles latched onto nipples, golf cart rides and everything in-between, Jackass has aged as a beautiful relic of culture. Pain and adrenalin mixed with the worldwide truth of there being nothing funnier than a man defecating in his own trousers. There is a beauty to that. A universal language, invented by a man that just couldn’t hold it in before he found a nearby toilet. Violence is understood by all. Humour too. There’s a reliance on faeces and vomit unheard of within this first feature, from Steve-O snorting wasabi to another incident of yellow snow cones. It unsettles the stomach, but as the crew begin to move away from that, Jackass came into its own.