At one point in Jackass 3-D, beloved daredevil Steve-O pauses in the middle of introducing a segment to rhetorically ask the audience “Why must I be Steve-O?” It’s a question we’d all like to know the answer to.  This third film in the series doesn’t get us any closer to that elusive answer but it gives the audience plenty to marvel at while they ponder that question with the film’s cast of loveable self-flagellating daredevils.  There’s also tons of ridiculous stunts, hair-raising physical injuries, male nudity, profanity, bodily fluids and, of course, poo.  Mountains of poo.

If you’ve ever seen the Jackass t.v. series or either of its past cinematic incarnations, you know the drill: a rag-tag group of cheerful head-cases – the most prominent being Johnny Knoxville, Bam Margera and the aforementioned Steve-O – indulge in a series of gonzo stunts and practical jokes designed to make viewers laugh, squirm or do both at once.  Significant highlights on this go-round include Knoxville getting charged by a buffalo, some bloodcurdling skin-on-skin antics with super-adhesive glue, Steve-O doing a bungee-jump in an excrement/urine-filled port-a-potty and the dreaded “poo-cano.”

As the title indicates, this installment of the series is notable for its endearingly crass use of current three-dimensional film technology.  Truth be told, only about half of Jackass 3-D really uses the potential of 3-D in an interesting way and the only time it is truly essential to the film’s effectiveness is during the opening and closing sequences, both of which are carefully staged in a studio environment to exploit every goofball 3-D gimmick imaginable.  That said, it’s nice to see a modern 3-D epic be upfront about its shameless gimmickry – and those opening and closing scenes are worth the price of the added 3-D cost alone.

As for the film itself, it’s not quite up to the phantasmagorical-grossout standard of the first two films.  For instance, there are some recycled bits (a giant springloaded hand that attacks the gang when walking into a room repeats a past gag involving a springloaded boxing glove, a scene where a “gorilla” attacks Bam’s parents is a revision of a prior gag that involved the mom finding an alligator in her home).

That said, there a few sequences that rank with the best and most surprising comedy moments of this year, like Johnny Knoxville dancing and lip-synching to “You Can’t Roller Skate In A Buffalo Herd” before getting buffalo-rushed and a bar-fight scene involving Wee Man that goes to surrealistically hilarious extremes before a stunned group of onlookers.  The latter bit also shows off the oddball whimsy inherent to the Jackass concept, a key element of these films that often gets overlooked by its critics.  Beneath the bloodshed and bodily fluids, these are just the boys from next door having goofball fun and occasionally getting quite creative with it.

However, the most important thing about Jackass 3-D is the audience experience. Like its predecessors, this is a film designed to be seen with a packed audience because the tension-and-release aspect is best experienced in such a setting.  Director/ringleader Jeff Tremaine keeps the gags flowing at a fast clip and knows how to tease out the punchline of a slapstick setup for maximum effect.  The end result is as exhilarating as a good rollercoaster ride and it works over the audience with ruthless efficiency.

Thus, Jackass 3-D gets a qualified recommendation: if you enjoy this curious sort of entertainment and can see it in a theater with a good crowd (or gather a decent-sized appreciative group of viewers when it hits video) then it is worth your time for the visceral punch of the experience alone.  If only Hollywood’s scripted comedies could come across with the sort of swinging-at-the-fences impact that this film occasionally musters up…