"Jackass: The Movie" was the No. 1 film in the United States last weekend. Such is the sad state of our generation.
What's even more sad, though, is the state of the cinematic marketing machine.
The movie earned more than $22 million at the box office. Yet, films like "Punch Drunk Love," one of the best reviewed films of the year, and "Auto Focus" a biopic of "Hogan's Heroes" star Bob Crane's dark side, toil in obscurity, rarely making it out of their metropolitan enclaves and into the neighborhood cineplex.
Even MTV president Van Toffler was surprised at the results.
"We didn't expect to exceed $20 million, especially with a film called 'Jackass,'" he said in an interview with the Associated Press. "Especially for a film with no plot, no Oscar caliber performances and no real writing."
"Jackass" was allegedly so bad, that Paramount didn't even bother screening the film for critics. Those who did review it, had to wait in line with all the other preadolescents. And for the most part they didn't like what they saw. Lou Lumenick of the New York Post offered one of the funnier critiques, calling it "by far the worst movie of the year."
"This plotless, crudely videotaped collection of moronic stunts is a movie in the same sense that those hideous, velvet depictions of Elvis are paintings," he wrote. "At least the velvet Elvises haven't landed anybody in the hospital."
Other critics weren't much kinder.
"How do you critique a guy making his own 'yellow snow cone,' eating it and then retching?," wrote Mark Caro of the Chicago Tribune. "Do you say, 'Well-executed, my boy'? Do you point out that John Waters and Divine were pulling off such gag-inducing stunts 30 years ago in "Pink Flamingos"? Or do you just go, 'Yechhh'?"
Not that "Jackass's" primary fan base is the type to pick up the paper in the morning and peruse the day's headlines. Or peruse anything in print for that matter. Even if they did they'd probably be more inclined to see the movie, reading the critics' descriptions.
"It is the first motion picture in history to open at No. 1 because of scenes showing people going No. 1 and No. 2," wrote Jack Mathews of the New York Daily News.
I'll admit my guilt in passing judgment without actually seeing the movie. It's something that, by and large, I don't like to do. But if the movie is anything like what I've seen in the series (mostly people playing with fire, bodily fluids, bodily functions and a combination of all of the above, mixed in with some amateur stunt work), then I figured my $6 would be better spent somewhere else. According to most credible critics the film is little more than an extended, more graphic episode of the series, or as New York Times critic A.O. Scott put it, "a low brow documentary version of 'Fight Club.'"
That's not to say I don't like lewd crude gags. Just several weeks I wrote a story about the Comedy Central movie "Porn 'n' Chicken." I also wrote a column on my love for Adam Sandler's work. But at least Sandler, when he does venture into bad taste, spares us the agony of seeing the results from putting a hardware store display toilet to good use.
Studios have no qualms about spending millions to pitch scenes of idiots throwing bowling balls into each other's crotches, lighting fireworks in each other's crotches and executing a number of other tricks with their pelvic areas. There's a ripe audience for that. But when a well-reviewed animated fairy tale, that happens to be subtitled like the recent animated film "Spirited Away," the marketing departments relegates it to the "art house" circuit.
Apparently trying to sell it would be as difficult as trying to explain the artistic values of "Jackass."
Write to Robert at firstname.lastname@example.org