The biggest decision modern moviegoers face when showing up at a theater isn't which movie to see, but how to see it. Jackass 3D arrives this weekend and 3D is all part of the gimmick. I saw it tonight and, for the record, I wasn't impressed. My full review is here, but this won't be discussion of Jackass 3D's overall merits.
My goal in this space is not to analyze whether we're doomed as a society because we want to see Wee Man get hit in the crotch, but to help you decide as a ticket buyer whether you should see it in 2D or pay extra for the heavily advertised 3D ticket. To help you find your way through the increasingly thick 3D fog clogging up movie theaters, we've developed a straightforward, unbiased, 7-point system for determining whether 3D is the right choice for you when seeing a film. In order for this guide to work, for better or worse, I'll ignore the quality of Jackass 3D as a movie and instead give a technical assessment of the film's 3D only. Using that, you'll have the information you need to choose the right way to see Jackass 3D, if you're determined to see it. Let's get to it.
Does It Fit?
Because by nature Jackass is already a series of big, ridiculous gimmicks taken too far, 3D might seem like a natural fit for whatever Steve-O and the boys are up to. Except the movie's live action, which very rarely works well in 3D. Worse, almost all of it takes place in a series uncontrolled environments, shot with handheld cameras without the time to put a lot of thought into whether this shot will work for 3D or not. That's a problem since good 3D takes careful, painstaking planning. Most of the stuff in any Jackass movie simply happens on the fly and you hope the camera's pointed in the right direction. Some scenes were shot with high-speed cameras and displayed in slow motion so it's not all bees flying around while the camera man tries to run away from them, but a lot of it is. Because of that, 3D only really seems like a good idea for a Jackass movie in theory. When you really analyze the nuts and bolts of how they actually do it, it doesn't fit at all.
3D Fit Score: 2/5
Advance Planning And Effort
Jackass 3D director Jeff Tremaine first started doing 3D tests back in 2009, long before they started shooting. Paramount executives only approved releasing it in 3D after seeing test footage in which Chris Pontius tethers a heli-copter to his crotch and waves it around. He called it the heli-cockter and it made it into the final cut of the film. They've been working on this for awhile, in their own Jackass-like way. And this isn't a 3D conversion, it's actually shot in 3D. Unfortunately they didn't shoot it using the most expensive 3D cameras really and I'm pretty sure James Cameron wasn't consulted, but it was actually shot in 3D which instantly puts them a notch above some of the post-conversion competition. Still, I suspect they were more concerned with planning out how much male nudity they could get away with in the film than in figuring out the best ways to utilize 3D. Thanks for trying though guys.
Planning And Effort Score: 3/5
Beyond The Window
Used properly 3D can give the picture in front of you the illusion of extra depth and make it feel as though you're watching something happening through a window, rather than flat images projected on a screen. Jackass 3D, however, makes it seem as though you're watching flat images through a window. 3D is used to give the picture depth, but it's a cardboard cut out sort of depth that makes the things you're watching seem less real, rather than more real. It's the kind of 3D you probably saw a lot of before Avatar, where I suspect a lot of Jackass 3D's techniques came from. The depth is there, but I'm not sure you'll want it, at least not like this.
Beyond The Window Score: 2/5
Before The Window
3D can make create depth to make it seem as though you're looking through a window, but it can also be used to make it seem as though objects are in front of the window, even floating over the heads of the audience. Used improperly this can become gimmicky, but it doesn't have to be. It is here. This is Jackass after all and it's all about gimmicks. Jackass 3D throws a lot of flat out goop at the screen. Bodily fluids of all kinds, dildos, even the occasional jetski shoot out of the screen. Almost none of it really works. The problem is that as soon as they try to use 3D to push something through the window into the audience, their technology just isn't up to the task and most of the time it ends up blurry and distorted. They keep trying anyway, but it's all gimmick and it's not a gimmick done very well. It's not even always done in the right places. Some of the stunts most obviously suited to explore the area in front of the audience's window don't bother at all, while others that don't really make sense, are forced to break the bounds of the screen. Jackass 3D tries, but it gets it all wrong.
Before The Window Score: 2/5
One of the biggest problems with 3D is the fog created by those filtered glasses you're forced to wear. This is most often a problem on live action movies, where 3D is forced to deal with the varied lighting of reality. It's not really much of a problem on Jackass 3D though. The entire movie seems as though it's shot on a perpetually sunny day. The production has an obsession with sharp, bright colors. Johnny Knoxville wears a lot of bright red. Outdoor scenes always take place in perfect sunlight, indoor scenes are usually so poorly shot that it doesn't really seem to matter how they're lit anyway. It's not exactly well thought out, but it's not a problem either. It's probably an accident, but they get it right.
Brightness Score: 4/5
3D sometimes makes people sick but it seems sort of irrelevant when it comes to Jackass 3D. There's so much vomit and feces being thrown at the camera in this film that odds are you wouldn't notice if the 3D did make you sick, since you'd probably feel queasy anyway. One of the biggest causes of 3D related illness, however, is the brightness of the film. A dimly lit 3D movie can cause headaches or fatigue but, because Jackass is so bright and sharp that's probably not going to be a problem here. Jackass 3D may make you sick, but probably not because of the 3D being used.
Health Score 4/5
The Glasses Off Test
The last time you took off your glasses while watching a good 3D movie, you probably noticed that during the most intensive parts of the film, the picture on screen became even fuzzier. The easiest way to explain this is to say that the blurrier the image on screen appears when seen without glasses, the deeper and more vibrant the 3D is likely to be with your glasses on. So to test this, I removed my 3D glasses periodically during Jackass 3D to examine the way 3D effects were being created. What I observed was that it seemed as though someone had simply flipped a 3D switch and the level of 3D being created was pretty much the same whether Wee Man was sitting in front of the camera eating lunch or Bam Margera was throwing a box of dildos at the camera. It didn't seem as though they were really making any attempt to vary the depth of the 3D being used, which is critical if you're really trying to maximize the effect it has on the audience.
Glasses Off Score: 2/5
Planning and Effort
Beyond The Window
Before The Window
The Glasses Off Test
19 (out of a possible 35)
Final Verdict: You'd thinking putting a Jackass movie in 3D would just enhance the fun but my experience was that largely it makes no difference at all. The 3D used here just isn't sophisticated enough to make an impact, particularly if you're someone who's seen other recent 3D movies like Avatar or Resident Evil: Afterlife, where the 3D's pulled off at a high level. If you see Jackass 3D, and if you can find a 2D showing, then go with it and save money secure in the knowledge that you're not really missing anything.
For more 3D analysis, visit our To 3D Or Not To 3D archive right here.