3D is stupid, and Jackass is stupid, so Jackass 3D should be a marriage made in stupidity heaven. In reality, however, adding another dimension to the gonzo pranks perpetrated by Johnny Knoxville and his merry band of idiots does little to alter the overall effect; sure, you feel slightly closer to fecal matter and vomit than ever before, but for the most part, the MTV crew’s third cinematic celebration of knucklehead behavior doesn’t get significantly more mileage out of its extreme-sport art by embellishing it with glasses-required special effects. Rather, Jackass 3D is what its predecessors were: a mixed bag of sketchy hidden-camera hoaxes played on regular folk and gags in which willing participants injure themselves (specifically, their faces and genitals) in outrageous ways.
The absurdist song remains the same, which renders the proceedings somewhat redundant; there are only so many times one can see Knoxville and cohorts Bam Margera, Steve-O, Ryan Dunn, Preston Lacy, and Wee Man (among others) suffer self- and friend-inflicted wounds involving bodily fluids and angry animals before exhaustion sets in. And yet that familiarity also means that the film stays gleefully true to the franchise’s anything-goes puerile spirit, which is here epitomized by a penis-POV scene of Margera peeing on unsuspecting victims.
An introductory Beavis and Butthead explanation of 3D sets the juvenile tone, though as usual for the series, Jackass 3D is most interesting—and nerve-rattling—when it affords a view of its stars’ genuine terror. “Why do I have to be Steve-O?” moans the moronic daredevil before taking a Wiffle ball to the balls, while later he admits—before entering a poo-filled Porta Potty strapped to bungee cords—that he’s far less afraid of dog excrement than he is of claustrophobic spaces and heights. Similarly, Margera willingly abuses himself but exhibits unadulterated fear when trapped in a pit filled with fake—and then live—snakes. These visions of unvarnished dread help amplify the cringe-inducing potency of the gang’s insane exploits, whose conceptual lunacy is often the key to their hilarity. For every relatively ho-hum feat, such as Chris Pontius having a scorpion sting his upside-down face, there’s a brilliantly conceived and executed slice of inanity, like an obstacle course chockablock with stun guns and cattle prods.
Two bookended slow-motion panoramas of punishment most ably utilize 3D for up-close-and-personal perspectives on pain. But more than these choreographed moments or the typical groin-centric stunts involving motorcycles, bats, and bees, the biggest laughs ultimately come from the (pun alert!) smallest places—namely, a midget bar brawl so perfectly ridiculous, it deserves a place in the pantheon of absurdist comedy.