In the recent Serbian coming-of-age drama "Tilva Ros," the bored teenage residents of a small mining town pass the time taping themselves engaging in demented "Jackass" stunts -- evidence that the now-legendary exploits of Johnny Knoxville, Steve-O and the rest of the gang have obtained a global reach. That "Jackass 3D" fully exploits a technology generally associated with expensive, state-of-the-art Hollywood filmmaking only further the perception of that rowdy gang as superstars, a reality that frankly bewilders me. I laughed throughout this plotless series of sketches, which takes nifty advantage of 3-D cameras in an improv setting by allowing the participants to get seriously dimensional with their stunts, hurling bodies, feces, snakes, balls of all shapes and sizes, and even urine (from a penis POV!) in places where society says they don't belong. But enjoying "Jackass" has less to do with admiring the specificity of its slapstick humor (totally arbitrary but always extreme) than simply becoming hypnotized by the primitive nature of the group's comedic inspiration. Like everything else they've done, "Jackass 3-D" plays less like a movie than a mindset. A really inane mindset.
The stunts offer nothing new. (Poo cocktails, a little person bar fight, playing with crazy glue...you get the point.) But in this case, more of the same is kinda the point. "Jackass" exists on autopilot, and even if it isn't conceived to spoof the underlying immaturity in us all, the resulting popularity of the franchise still confirms just that. When Mike Judge (who wrote an amusing "Beavis and Butthead" intro to the new movie) predicted in "Idiocracy" that the future of television was a reality show called "Ow My Balls," he meant it not to knock "Jackass" antics but rather to take a stab at the universal human proclivity towards stupid entertainment that makes this extreme representation of it so goddamn fun. And, as a result, kind of scary, too.