Are You a Jackass for Liking ‘Jackass’?

Jackass 3DEarlier this week, Pajiba’s Dustin Rowles delivered a scathing critique of those of you who paid to see Jackass 3D — and with a $50M opening weekend, odds are it was a lot of you. While he understood why someone might be interested in it, he argued that you have somehow surrendered the moral high ground if you did so. He went on to argue this:

Unless you can make the distinction between a movie like Jackass 3D and Meet the Fockers or Norbit — and I can’t; I’ve wracked my brain trying to make an honest distinction — then you have lost the moral high ground. It’s hard to complain about cultural erosion if you spent $10 to watch a man launch a turd out of his ass. You can criticize Katherine Heigl movies, and Rob Schneider movies, and Adam Sandler movies, but that criticism will feel somehow empty after you applaud a pig rooting around in an obese man’s anus for an apple.

Now, while I did not pay to see Jackass 3D last weekend, I sure told a lot of people that they should. And I think Dustin really missed the boat when he made his comparison. First and foremost, he dug deep and pulled out some truly terrible movies to compare this to. Difference No. 1? The critics enjoyed it. It received a 66% positive (FRESH) rating from critics and an 83% positive rating from the audiences on, and a B+ CinemaScore. None of the films to which Dustin is alluding has fared anywhere near as well.

Difference No. 2? Jackass knows it is lowbrow and instead attempts to achieve a balance between the base audience to which it is playing and a certain level of artistic originality in the way it is executed. Jackass knows what it is and instead tries to nail the slapstick, Three Stooges ideal with every stunt. Half the fun of the recent endeavor was watching these guys, who have long done the dumbest things known to man, step back, peer over the edge and say, “Oh, hell no,” while simultaneously knowing they have to do it if they want to cover the mortgage on their homes. All of the films Rowles mentioned are products of the Hollywood lowest-common-denominator machine; they’re films that revel in how much smarter they think they are than the audience, rather than placing themselves gleefully beneath them like the boys of Jackass.

Jackass 3DI don’t think anyone out there thinks the massive opening says anything about what America wants to see. If anyone is rushing out to assemble a Jackass team of their own, they are about to learn a hard lesson. The success of this film doesn’t speak to where entertainment is going; it speaks to the strength of the brand. Jackass has consistently entertained people enough to come out and see it, and the way the 3-D gimmick was executed in the film delivered on the word of mouth to back it up. Does it mean a Part 4? Possibly. It definitely means a Part 3.5. And is that so wrong? What it definitely does NOT mean is more Katherine Heigl movies (both Life as We Know It and Killers disappointed). One of these things is NOT like the other.

I think Dustin just felt smarter than the movie and wanted to make us feel dumber for liking it. There’s nothing wrong with dumb movies, as long as you like them for being dumb and don’t fool yourself into thinking that they are anything but. Nobody thinks Jackass is Oscar gold, but many of us think it is a fine thing to spend $12 on.