Jackass: The Movie

On a ski vacation this January, one of my friends called up Jackass: The Movie on pay-per-view, and I loved it. (And, yes, I was perfectly sober.) Out on special-edition DVD March 25, with 27 minutes of unseen footage among other extras, Jackass reminds me of Monty Python. Remember the bit where two Pythons ritualistically bludgeon each other with fish until one falls into a canal? Jackass isn't so different in its often absurdist whimsy.

If you can get past the few requisite gross-out sketches (man eats urine-soaked snow cone, etc.), Jackass stands in the oldest, funniest traditions of Hollywood. It's essentially a pratfall movie, where constant physical affronts to our dignityslipping, falling, slapping, farting, vomitingproduce a visceral, leveling catharsis. Jackass is body comedy that reminds us how we're all the same under the skin, no matter how we clothe ourselves with adult propriety.

Like Fatty Arbuckle or Charlie Chaplin, Johnny Knoxville and the Jackass crew are also agents of social chaos. Interrupting golfers with air-horn blasts, dancing in G-strings around stoic Japanese, made up like geriatrics and crashing their motorized wheelchairs on the streets of L.A.they're pranksters forever telling us not to be so stiff. They're the Marx Brothers to our Margaret Dumont.

Also, like Buster Keaton, Jackass transforms pain into comedy. Keaton endures stoically, while the Jackass boys howl with hurt. But mainly they laugh. The money shot is always when the camera pans from the writhing, grimacing gag victim/subject to his cohorts' reaction. Suffering, when self-inflicted, becomes funnyso long as there's an audience.

Even if it got skunked at the Oscars, Far From Heaven is among the good things coming to DVD on April 1, with extras including Todd Haynes' commentary and his chat with star Julianne Moore. Also out: Jean Vigo's wonderful 1934 L'Atalante; Secretary, which made my top-10 list last year; the 1979 conspiracy-movie curio Winter Kills (with Jeff Bridges and John Huston); a special-edition, two-disc set of West Side Story; Volker Schl�rff's 1975 The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum; and Joseph Mankiewicz's 1947 The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (with Rex Harrison and Gene Tierney). There's little to recommend about Red Dragon. We'll review the Wilco doc I Am Trying to Break Your Heart next week.


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