Avatar is no longer the only film with blue people and floating globules to pioneer the best of what digital 3D can offer. Granted, the Na’vi weren’t covered with dark-hued dye from exploded Porta-Potties, and that mid-air matter flying by Jake Sully’s face certainly wasn’t fecal.
Because most of Avatar’s sets reside on a hard drive, Jackass 3D represents the greatest live-action 3D film spawned of this digital revolution. Even Rip Taylor’s confetti captivates during this 360-degree immersion into infantilism — gaspingly funny even as material shows signs of age that its Peter Pan performers reject.
Bam Margera’s “Wienercam” is exactly what you think, but Jackass 3D is far from the intensely penile potshot at the extra dimension expected from Margera, Johnny Knoxville, Steve-O and company. They leave any format jabs to the film’s emcees — fellow MTV miscreants of whom nothing more will be said than that they’ve rarely been dressed in such finery.
Yes, 3D is used to propel dildos, dookie and dripping pee into your lap, rather liberally in the film’s second half. But director / editor Jeff Tremaine and his strong- (or not-so-strong) stomached cinematographers employ it, well, artfully, and improved visual composition only mildly tempers the craziness.
Contrasting his exhibitionist cast, Tremaine prefers copious coverage, capturing angles to beef laughs beyond straight-on shots. (“High Five,” a large-scale redux of Jackass Number Two’s wall-punch gag, gets huge guffaws with a side view of Margera.)
Plus, Jackass 3D revolutionizes slow-motion photography in a way unseen onscreen since the original “Matrix.” A million-dollar Phantom camera reportedly developed especially for this film captures every last detail in slow motion, from the rippling cheeks after a right hook to the parabolic arc of an eruption from Dave England’s nether-regions. “Crisp” will now be an adjective associated with diarrhea, so there you go.
For all the technological advancements, there’s a slightly disappointing sense of rehashing, especially oh-so-slight variations on bits from the uproarious Number Two. It’s more shot-to-the-insert-body-part-here stunts than sly pranks or social instigation. Knoxville’s usually reliable octogenarian alter ego Irving Zisman doesn’t one-up “Bad Grandpa” with “Really Bad Grandpa,” shocking given chosen subject matter.
There’s also far less psychological prodding among the group that shoved Number Two into discomfort zones. When Steve-O says, “Why do I have to be Steve-O?” before “Tee Ball” (one of many mashed-nut moments), it’s as close to a new subtext as No. 3 gets. Formerly addicted to any number of narcotics, Steve-O’s now a sober vegan who volunteers for community service. Even when he’s vomiting up Preston Lacy’s butt sweat, it’s nice to see him emitting the glow of health.
And a franchise’s third installment hasn’t concluded with such forced cuddliness since Star Wars: Episode VI — Return of the Jedi. The end credits are padded with cute boyhood pictures of the Jackasses meant to melt the hearts of any women who haven’t yet bolted for daylight.
Problems aside, when Jackass 3D works, it kills: a reenactment of the Maxell ad in the roar of a fighter jet’s backwash; “Electric Avenue,” of which 950,000 volts is a critical detail; a real-life round of “Pin the Tail on the Donkey” showing why it’s best left as a children’s game; the violent outcome of speed times velocity in football; and a face-hurting bit that, if told orally, would start with “Two little people walk into a bar.”
Each bit speaks to classic setups of physical and circumstantial comedy in which the Jackass crew specializes. They’re pierced, tattooed, scarred funnymen who lack Harold Lloyd or Buster Keaton’s refinement, but have updated their understanding of cathartic comedy to include butting rams and stinging bees.
For next time — and there will almost surely be a next time — they can keep the nausea but hold the nauseating nostalgia.