During one of a few interview appearances in 'Nitro Circus: The Movie,' Johnny Knoxville compared his MTV reality series and films to the antics of this "action sport collective," which also had a brief television run. The 'Jackass'-extraordinaire says the two are born of the same mother but different fathers. There's a bit of truth behind this statement. He's right that both groups involve seeing grown adults physically punish themselves attempting a variety of dangerous feats for the sake of entertainment.
However, I would reverse Knoxville's logic. Both camps come from the same below-average-intelligence father but born of different mothers, probably seduced while intoxicated with poor judgment and even poorer standards for a mate. If there's one market in the war of the sexes that men have clearly laid claim to, it is definitely the area of aberrant stupidity, and things like 'Jackass' and this movie are evidence of that.
The other clear difference between the two shows and their respective movie spinoffs is that at least the Nitro Circus team is made from actual professionals of extreme sports. The stunts they perform, though highly dangerous, are planned for the best possible outcome in almost every situation whereas the Jackass guys, aside from a couple skateboarders, are basically a bunch of idiots trying to pull off the most asinine pranks imaginable. One is purely out of a need for attention, which frankly lowers the standards of the human species, while the other aims to entertain to some measure with some kind of sports theme attached.
Steve-O pretending to be shark bait is recklessly stupid with a good chance of bodily injury or death. Jumping a modified Big Wheel across two high-rises is equally stupid but obviously done so that each jumper intentionally overshoots their target, guarantying the safety of the person performing the stunt. It looks amazing, to be sure, but carefully pre-planned in advance.
So then, why is it this documentary featuring a group of friends that travel the world together performing spectacular extreme stunts is such a letdown. Ninety minutes of watching the team doing some wildly crazy stuff while interviews of celebrities praise them should ideally offer at least the same level of amusement as the 'Jackass' franchise. (In actuality, the show and films surrounding this sort of stupid behavior is the least bit amusing in my book.) The movie is not an "EPIC FAIL!" by any means, especially when watching it in 3D, but it's still kind of a fail because it does ultimately feel like the weaker, younger brother from a different a mother.
I think the doc hits a major snag by amounting to nothing more than a feature-length promo to the team's live show at the MGM Grand Arena in Las Vegas. Audiences are even reminded of this live event numerously via a countdown and behind-the-scenes footage of spectators filling the arena and stunt performers preparing backstage. Directors Gregg Godfrey and Jeremy Rawle also give the impression that we'll soon see the big circus-like show, if not at least a good chunk of it. When it turns out this was never actually part of the plan, it's both disappointing and somewhat annoying we just spent 90-minutes of our time sitting through a very long commercial.
Granted, the stunts performed in between the countdown are decently funny and a bit shocking, but as the filmmakers continuously rev up their viewers for some grand finale, we reasonably expect a big finish that would make the entire film worth remembering. Instead, it's a series of stupid stunts that are soon forgotten. The introduction, which is a carefully choreographed spectacle on a dirt track that's incredible to behold, offers a small glimpse of the team's talent to put on a show, but do we get the same in the closing moments. No, we don't.
Other inherent problems come from the performers themselves. Led by motorsports competitor Travis Pastrana, the Nitro Circus team members spend little time in front of the camera, and hence, never give audiences an opportunity to know or care for them. Again, the stunts look spectacular, but not once did I fear for their safety. The success of such outrageous programming like 'Jackass' is in the likeability of the idiots about to risk their lives for your entertainment. In 'Nitro Circus: The Movie,' the performers come and go, except for a small close-knit selection like Street Bike Tommy and Jolene Van Vugt, and never give us a reason to worry or be concerned for them, making for a rather boring watch.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Arc Entertainment brings 'Nitro Circus: The Movie' to 3D Blu-ray as a three-disc combo pack. Two Region Free, BD25 discs — one 3D, the other 2D — are accompanied by a DVD-9 copy of the documentary. All three come inside a regular blue keepcase with a pair of discs on an opposing panel, stacked one atop the other. Once in the player, the disc starts with a few 2D trailers for other titles within the studio's catalog. Afterwards, the screen switches to a 3D main menu with full-motion clips and music playing in the background.
'Nitro Circus' hits the 3D Blu-ray scene with a big, cannonball splash that puts viewers right in the middle of the group's insane and asinine stunts. Shot entirely on the Red Epic digital camera system with a 3D rig, the 1080p/MVC MPEG-4 encode comes with lots of objects protruding from the screen, threatening to smack viewers at home on the face. Cars, dirt bikes, bodies, school buses and modified Big Wheels often appear as if flying across the middle of the living room. During each stunt, depth is astounding, with background objects in the very far distance generating an immersive three-dimensional space. The first ten minutes of a carefully choreographed stunt show on dirt track is simply breathtaking as individual performers ride and jump in the air independently of their surroundings.
Unfortunately, the 1.78:1 picture is also a bit inconsistent as a good chunk of it appears fairly flat and two-dimensional. I'm not sure if it's intentional to show only the wild stunts in 3D while the rest of the movie is 2D, but it definitely feels that way. Although the crazy things the group does look stunning because of the 3D, the rest of the doc fails to impress. There are also some minor aliasing and moiré patterns that creep up, complemented by a tad of video noise, and ringing around several objects tends to distract.
Thankfully, the high-def presentation is not a total loss as it displays sharp, crisp contrast levels with clean, vivid whites while blacks are deep and accurate throughout. The picture is really rather spectacular in this respect, adding a good deal to the overall depth and maintaining remarkable visibility. Colors are bold and vibrant, particularly in the lush, richly-saturated primaries. Facial complexions appear natural and revealing. Fine lines and textural details are razor-sharp, exposing every trivial blemish, tear and stitching in the wild outfits worn by the cast. Overall, and in spite of some negligible missteps in the video, the transfer pleases more often than disappoints and the 3D is fantastic when it really wants to be.
Ultimately, the audio department is where the documentary truly shines and impresses. Much of its success is due to a song selection that spreads smoothly and evenly to the back speakers, filling the room with annoying pop-punk and a couple good rock classics. With surprisingly good discrete effects and directionality, rear activity is much more satisfying than initially expected. The original design isn't exactly the sort to put viewers in the middle of the action, but imaging feels wide and immersive.
Being a documentary, however, a great deal of the attention in this DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack is in the fronts. Channel separation is well-balanced and uniform, creating a spacious soundstage with lots of warmth and fidelity. Vocals are highly intelligible and prioritized in the center of the screen. The mid-range is quite extensive with detailed clarity and distinction between the variety of sounds and frequencies. Most shocking of all is a potent and authoritative LFE channel that reaches some ultra-low depths on a few occasions, such as one scene with a helicopter flying overhead. In the end, this lossless mix to a mildly entertaining doc is the real winner of the entire package.
Like a long-lost brother from a different mother trying to follow in the same footsteps as his older sibling, 'Nitro Circus: The Movie' enters the 'Jackass' arena, except the performers are actual sports professionals and the pranks are not as idiotic. Despite the team showing off their amazing skills to pull off some amazing stunts, the documentary is a bit of a disappointment and somewhat boring, feeling too much like a feature-length promo to the group's live show tour. The Blu-ray comes with a great-looking 3D video presentation and even better audio. Supplements are kept very light and add to the level of disappointment, making the overall package one only fans and 3D enthusiasts could honestly appreciate.