How does one review “Jackass 3D”? The tertiary installment in MTV’s prank and stunt franchise is basically immune to criticism because you get exactly what you pay for. Love it or hate it, “Jackass 3D” accomplishes just about everything it sets out to; in effect, Johnny Knoxville scores a goal on an empty net.
I am the anomaly, but I’d wager next to no one is ‘on the fence’ about whether or not they should see this film. They either contributed to the massive $50 million opening weekend box office cume, or they immediately dismissed it. In my case, however, having never seen the “Jackass” films wasn’t a conscious snub. Believe it or not, there just always seemed to be something better to watch.
This isn't the definitive “Jackass” experience, however. Having watched all three films in the span of a single week, I did discern a distinct arc that left me somewhat letdown with Knoxville’s most recent effort. “Jackass: Number Two” improved upon the original with a more polished, professional look, and more elaborate and inventive stunts. It gave the genuine impression that the crew was pushing its boundaries and trumping itself wherever possible. That same sense of pioneering is largely missing from “Jackass 3D.” The glasses-gimmick seems to supplant genuine innovation in their routine, and on the whole it feels slapdash in comparison to the conceptual genius of its prequel.
But what survives in “Jackass 3D,” and what ultimately endeared me to the franchise is its creativity. Where it won me over was not in the painful payoff of each trick, but rather in the setup. The use of the camera to disorient, spotlight, and surprise is what really makes the series sing, and the trilogy is full of epiphanic moments of hilarity. “Jackass” has and always will be a potpourri of comedic elements, not all of which directly appeal to my specific sensibilities, but the variety is essential and the whole is somehow more than the sum of its parts.
I only wish “Jackass 3D” had more of the entrepreneurial spirit that so distinguished the second film. It may not be ambitious, but hey, a goal made on an empty net still counts.