When news broke on the 20th that Ryan Dunn had died in a horrible, fiery car crash, it took a few days to gear up and jump into a review of Jackass 3.5. I didn’t want to unfairly lean on an air of sentimentality in a film that prides itself on being above such silly feelings. I didn’t want to be too somber or too condescending, either. Because Jackass 3.5 focuses a lot more on the less apparent cast members, watching it is a fitting way to send the crew member with the best beard out. Besides, when Bam Margera crumples in a crappy director’s chair, it’s worth it to see Dunn getting the last laugh.
Jackass has always had a documentary feeling, with dialogue interspersing the various skits, but 3.5 takes that feeling a step further, relying heavily on interviews with the cast, friends of the cast, and even director Jeff Tremaine. Though all the extra dialogue is just filler between the excess sketches, it’s almost as likeable as the usual format. At one point, the crew films Spike Jonze in his old, baggy-boobed lady costume, and he’s behaving bizarrely and not finishing cuts. In the background you can hear Jeff Tremaine swear and incredulously comment, “And that guy’s a director?” The sketches in Jackass 3.5 are the cast-offs from the main film. More of them are crude, and more of them are unpolished. So, to have candid moments interspersed in order to give audiences a better sense of cast dynamics definitely works to up the ante.
When Jackass 3.5 works best it is not at its most obscene. Unfortunately, it goes out of its way to mostly be obscene. Did I laugh? Yes. But I also cringed during “Blowback,” an extremely horrific sketch that culminates in Johnny Knoxville getting stitches on camera. And I saw Chris Pontius’ penis way more than normal; if you’ve seen any other Jackass film, you will understand this is a feat. This is probably a side effect of it being easier and more cost effective to produce crude sketches, so there are more leftovers along those lines. You gotta work with what you have.
Sometimes having less choice does provide positives. In Jackass 3.5, audiences get to see more from the guys who are less apparent in the regular Jackass movies. This might be because the main guys, like Knoxville, choose what sketches they are involved with more carefully. Or it might just be a byproduct of the lesser-known guys not writing for themselves and getting stuck doing all kinds of random crap. Honestly, half the time I forget Ehren McGhehey is even part of the crew, but he’s all over this DVD release. And we get some more notable Ryan Dunn -- including an incident involving Knoxville’s prescription lotion and some horse semen.
Jackass 3.5 is an actual Jackass film, not a collection of random shots they just threw together to make some extra money. Occasionally, Jackass 3.5 even provides incredible footage that could have/should have made any original Jackass film. It’s overall cruder, weirder, and a little more absurd than the average fodder, but it’s an enjoyable excuse to watch all the effort Tremain and crew put into deciding what works and what doesn’t. There are worse ways to spend an hour and a half.
The disc features 11 deleted scenes, as well as several outtakes, so if you haven’t had enough after the film, there’s at least a half hour of extra shots. Some of these work, some of them -- like a sketch where they tried to get a donkey to hump Steve-O and Knoxville in costume -- are miserable failures. There is also a press-release shot from the Jackass 3D European tour. For some reason, Loomis Fall gets to speak several times in this bit. Which is a terrible idea. Loomis can stretch sentences like silly putty until they break off and go nowhere.
The real winning extra is the segment “Jackass: The Beginning.” Spike Jonze, Johnny Knoxville, and Jeff Tremaine hang out and tell the origin story of the breakout and first season of the MTV Jackass production. Some never-before-seen footage is included, along with new interviews with all of the mainstay cast members. It’s also great to see Steve-O in clown action right before he is hired by the Jackass crew. If you do invest in a copy, give this a watch.