Jackass Number Two
Whether it's coincidental or just something in the air, the two funniest films of the year are both big screen versions of TV skit shows, produced by HBO and MTV respectively. Both exploit candid camera pranks pioneered by, yes, Candid Camera, and both test the boundaries of good taste and political correctness.
There isn't a whole lot separating the running gag in Jackass in which producer Spike Jonze dresses up in a full body costume as a little old lady and wanders the streets with pendulous breasts hanging out from the comedy of embarrassment Sacha Baron Cohen practices.
Similarly, the notorious nude wrestling scene in Borat finds its equivalent here in a scene with the naked Wee Man smothered by an equally starkers female fattie (this under the proud gaze of director John Waters, who started the whole gross-out thing with Pink Flamingos back in the day).
Of course there are substantial differences between them too. For a start, Baron Cohen hides under a character and has a pronounced subversive, political edge to his humour. The Jackass team typically kick off a stunt by introducing themselves. Their comedy is rarely social or political, it's physical. In a way they're the heirs of the great slapstick comedians of the silent era like Harold Lloyd and Buster Keaton (Knoxville reproduces one of Keaton's most famous death-defying gags here with fairly disastrous results). While Baron Cohen exposes other people's limitations, Johnny Knoxville et al set about testing their own.
This involves being chased by a herd of stampeding bulls, eating shit, drinking horse semen, putting a mouse puppet on your manhood and sticking it under the fangs of a hungry snake, straddling a rocket and seeing how far you get, wrestling an Anaconda, sticking a fish hook through your cheek and jumping into shark-infested waters, breathing farts until you puke, having a penis branded on your arse, wearing a false beard made of your mates' pubic hair, chugging beer through your bottom, having a dildo propelled up your bum; and so on.
There's a recurring theme here Dr Freud might look into, but for now let's just note in passing the soundtrack includes the song 'Johnny Are You Gay?' and let it dangle. But it's also true that these sick puppies seem a merry lot.
It would be easy to moralise, and I can well imagine column inches devoted to what we might call 'torture comedy', with a nod to Abu Ghraib, but we're all consenting adults here and the truth is, I saw this with an audience of just six, and it was still one of the liveliest screenings I've attended all year.
Is it funny? What was it the said on the ads for Wayne's World? You'll laugh. You'll cry. You'll hurl.Tom Charity
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