4 items from 2002
With Jackass: The Movie in the top slot at the boxoffice, the film's star, Johnny Knoxville, has found his next project. He will star in the low-budget indie comedy feature Grand Theft Parsons alongside a cast that includes Christina Applegate and Marley Shelton. David Caffrey (Divorcing Jack) is directing the project, which will be in production by year's end, with Frank Mannion producing. Jeremy Drysdale wrote the script, which is inspired by a true story. It sees Knoxville star as Phil Kaufman, a road manager for musician Gram Parsons. The film begins at Parsons' death, with Kaufman stealing the musician's body from a mortuary and racing it to Joshua Tree in the Southern California desert. There, Kaufman attempts to burn it to fulfill a pact he made with Parsons. Applegate plays Parsons' ex-wife, while Shelton plays Kaufman's love interest. Robert Forster and Michael Shannon also star. »
In their great wisdom, the folks at Paramount decided not to screen "Jackass: The Movie" for critics in time to make Friday's papers, apparently figuring that the picture's many quiet subtleties would be lost on those hurrying to make a deadline.
Critics need a good laugh, too, and this too-extreme-for-TV rendition of the notorious MTV show delivers the outrageous, sickening, sidesplitting goods in steaming, visceral heaps.
Those familiar with the antics of Knoxville and his team of damaged daredevils already have a good idea of what's in store, but the production's most impressive stunt involves the elevation of the frat house prank to an art form.
Recklessly riding on the coattails of all that has come before them -- from "Candid Camera" and "The Three Stooges" to "Super Dave" and "The Tom Green Show" -- Knoxville and his fellow jackasses succeed where so many other gross-out artists have failed thanks to one key selling point: They have remembered to let the audience in on the joke.
Those predominantly young male viewers, showing their appreciation with rare roars of laughter, should ensure jackass-tronomical business for Paramount, and given its piddling budget (less than $5 million), it should handily emerge as one of the studio's more profitable hits.
All that said, the "Jackass" experience is probably not for the faint of heart, especially when some of those stunts involve the administering of deliberate paper cuts with one serious-looking manila envelope slicing its way swiftly between each of Knoxville's fingers and toes.
Then there's that sushi restaurant sequence, in which another member of Team Jackass snorts a sizable clump of wasabi (with a little soy sauce chaser) and lives to experience the gut-wrenching -- not to mention retching -- repercussions. Twice.
Given the group's testosterone-only composition, it's probably not surprising that so many of their antics involve the crotch and/or bodily fluids, and while it can all get a little numbing by the 60-minute mark, overall there's wild inspiration to burn.
Director Jeff Tremaine, who cut his teeth on the series, shrewdly keeps out of the way, letting the back-to-back barrage of unrelated sketches speak for themselves without the needless intrusion of anything resembling technical proficiency.
With most of the discomfort and humiliation essentially self-inflicted rather than being hurled upon the unsuspecting onlooker (though there's a little of that going on as well, and it's really funny), Knoxville and his band of skateboarding, exhibitionist pain freaks come across as a bunch of crazy but oddly lovable goofballs.
Now if only they could come up with a stunt that would ensure there won't be an "American Idol: The Movie".
JACKASS: THE MOVIE
Paramount Pictures and MTV Films present a Dickhouse production in association with Lynch Siderow Prods.
Credits: Director: Jeff Tremaine; Producers: Jeff Tremaine, Spike Jonze, Johnny Knoxville; Executive producers: Trip Taylor; John Miller, David Gale; Director of photography: Dimitry Elyashkevich; Editors: Liz Ewart; Mark Hansen, Kristine Young; Costume designer: Melissa Lacombe; Music supervisor: Karen Glauber. Cast: Johnny Knoxville, Bam Margera, Steve-O, Chris Pontius, Ryan Dunn, Jason "Wee Man" Acuna, Preston Lacy, Dave England, Ehren McGhehey, Brandon DiCamillo.
MPAA rating R, running time 85 minutes.
The wild and crazy antics of MTV's Jackass crew proved their appeal is not limited to the small screen. The Paramount Pictures feature film took in an estimated $22.7 million to top the boxoffice competition in its debut this weekend. Starring such underground daredevils as Johnny Knoxville, Steve-O, and Jason Wee-Man Acuna , Jackass: The Movie used every bit of its R rating to take the television series' trademark stunts to even greater extremes. The resulting product clicked with audiences -- particularly young males -- as the film's opening marks the third largest October opening ever. Jackass, an MTV Films production, opened in 2,509 theaters and scored an estimated per-theater average of $9,047. With a microscopic budget in the $5 million range, the film can already be considered a hit for Paramount. DreamWorks' thriller The Ring added 653 theaters this week, and it was met with open arms as it took in an estimated $18.8 million -- a 25% increase from last weekend's No. 1 debut. The take was good enough for a second-place finish this weekend and suggests that word of mouth on the film continues to be strong. The Warner Bros. horror feature Ghost Ship debuted in third place this weekend with an estimated $11.7 million. After earlier in the week becoming the seventh film this year to break the $100 million mark, Buena Vista's Reese Witherspoon starrer Sweet Home Alabama celebrated with an estimated $6.4 million take over the weekend, good enough for a fourth place finish. IFC Films' My Big Fat Greek Wedding added an estimated $6.3 million to its coffers this weekend to bring its cumulative gross to an estimated $177.8 million. Remarkably, the film continues to draw large audiences, as evidenced by this weekend's fifth-place finish and just a 12% drop from its previous weekend's take. »
The original "Men in Black" gave the sci-fi alien invasion movie something it has always lacked -- a dress code. Black suits, dark glasses and a supercool attitude were required. Now Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones return as Jay and Kay, the secret police unit that monitors extra-terrestrial activity on planet Earth in "Men in Black II".
Naturally, what was hip and original in the first movie is now familiar and less hip in the sequel. Nevertheless, director Barry Sonnenfeld and company retain much of the rubbery alien slapstick humor, All American team Smith and Jones continue to play off each other smoothly, and a bigger role has been created for that instant laugh-getter Frank, the cigar-smoking, tough-talking pug.
Critics will have fits, but most younger audiences will be in stitches. "MiB II" may not approach the $587 million worldwide gross of "MiB" in 1997, but then again it's not impossible.
The key effect has nothing to do with Rick Baker's mind-tickling alien makeup or Industrial Light + Magic's visual effects, but the weird, "who-knew?" chemistry of Smith and Jones. Smith's exuberance and comic timing can elevate anybody's game. Here it serves to take the edge off Jones' gruff, no-nonsense acting style. Smith's Jay So lightens up the tough-guy aura surrounding Jones' Kay, you might mistake Jones for a light comedian.
Nothing particularly memorable happens in the sci-fi action here. Abbott and Costello movies had more sophisticated plots. But the sight of the two actors wading into a sea of icky creatures and bumbling aliens is irresistibly funny.
The film's major task is getting Kay and Jay back together. If you recall from the first film -- and don't hate yourself if you don't -- Jones' Kay was "neuralized" at the end, meaning his memory was wiped clean. Robert Gordon and Barry Fanaro's script makes their reteaming a matter of international urgency caused by the reappearance of Kay's old nemesis Serleena, an intergalactic blob of snaky parts that morphs into the curvaceous form of Lara Flynn Boyle.
Because only Kay knows where he long ago hid the object Serleena seeks, he is swiftly located in the civilian job of postmaster in Massachusetts and de-neuralized. The rest of the movie gets taken up with Kay and Jay tracking down clues amid the clutter of creatures manipulated by puppeteers and effects magicians.
Rip Torn returns as the Men in Black's boss, Zed, and Tony Shalhoub is back as Jeebs, the alien pawnshop owner. The chief new human is talented and beautiful Rosario Dawson, playing a witness to an alien-on-alien crime who Jay fails to neuralize when he develops a crush on her.
New aliens include Johnny Knoxville's Scrad/Charlie, Serleena's henchman with two heads but only half a brain, and John Alexander's Jarra, the ozone thief. The tiny and slinky Worm Guys return in extended roles that exploit their slovenly manner.
Sonnenfeld keeps things brisk. The movie clocks in at a trim 88 minutes, and things move more swiftly than in a cartoon. Technical effects are top-notch, which doesn't mean the creatures don't look fake as hell. That's part of the joke.
MEN IN BLACK II
An Amblin Entertainment production in association with MacDonald/Parkes Prods.
Director: Barry Sonnenfeld
Screenwriters: Robert Gordon, Barry Fanaro
Story by: Robert Gordon
Producers: Walter F. Parkes, Laurie MacDonald
Executive producer: Steven Spielberg
Director of photography: Greg Gardiner
Production designer: Bo Welch
Music: Danny Elfman
Co-producer: Graham Place
Costume designer: Mary E. Vogt
Visual effects supervisor: John Berton
Alien makeup effects: Rick Baker
Editors: Steven Weisberg, Richard Pearson
Kay: Tommy Lee Jones
Jay: Will Smith
Zed: Rip Torn
Serleena: Lara Flynn Boyle
Scrad/Charlie: Johnny Knoxville
Laura Vasquez: Rosario Dawson
Jeebs: Tony Shalhoub
Agent Tee: Patrick Warburton
Running time -- 88 minutes
MPAA rating: PG-13
4 items from 2002
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