The release today of Steven Zaillan’s much-ballyhooed remake of All the King’s Men, starring Sean Penn, Jude Law, Kate Winslet and a constellation’s worth of supporting cast members, is supposed to signal the official kick-off of the fall movie season, one which ostensibly contains all the studio’s big adult-oriented, Oscar-friendly fare backloaded into the end-of-the-year and Christmas seasons in the hopes of catching the attention of that little golden man. But the negative reviews coming in for All the King’s Men suggest that we’ve got a lot way to go before anybody’s going to start calling odds the Best Picture race.
Coincidentally, another movie opens today that has not even a decimal point’s chance of attracting Oscar attention. And yet it’s probably even more hotly anticipated than All the King’s Men, most definitely among a different demographic than is expected to dutifully trudge to see big studio Oscar bait. But a certain percentage of us older folks too, who really oughta know better, are giddy with aniticipation as well, we who cannot resist the clarion call of a well-executed prank, like an prowling electric razor randomly attacking the backs of unsuspecting heads, a rental-car destruction derby, or a man taking a dump in a display toilet bowl at a local hardware store. Those were highlights from jackass: the movie. God only knows what jackass number two holds in store.
And the reviews are pouring in. Nathan Lee in the New York Times calls it “some of the most fearless, liberated and cathartic comedy in modern movies,” while Stephanie Zacharek in Salon says,
“You not only can't believe what you're seeing but really don't want to be seeing it. Yet I couldn't look away, and neither could anyone else in the audience I saw the movie with. We hooted and hollered at the screen, captured by a single involuntary impulse… If there has to be a key to jackass number two -- other than the pleasure of laughing at crass, rude, wholly inappropriate humor -- maybe that's it: The movie unites us by turning us into a club of people who may at times do stupid things, but who staunchly draw the line at doing anything this stupid.”
Yet Jessica Reaves, in the Los Angeles Times, whose entire review could be summed up by “Eeew! Gross!” begs to differ: “The majority of people (and, based on the commercial success of the previous jackass movie, there will be many) who see this movie will be fans of the television series. They will, therefore, likely be far less horrified and, one assumes, less judgmental than a movie reviewer who is still wondering when she might be able to once again stomach solid food.”
But can jackass number two match or surpass the brilliant opening and ending sequences that bookended the first film? There must be something wrong with me, because I’m unreasonably excited to find out. But I won’t make the same mistake I did when I saw the first one—I will bring my asthma inhaler along this time. Because as I recall I swerved dangerously close to my own kind of laughing death in the theater during part one and, unlike, Johnny, Steve-o, Wee-Man, Bam and the rest of the gang, I wasn’t getting paid to flirt with the reaper. To repeat Mel Brooks’ line that Zacharek uses to open her review, "Tragedy is if I cut my finger. Comedy is if you fall in a hole and die." I look forward to 95 minutes of comedy this weekend, and if I survive, I will report back.