From flying through the sky to having alligators bite their nipples, the Jackass boys have pulled off quite a few stunts in the decade since their MTV show premiered. But last weekend, Johnny Knoxville and crew pulled off their biggest shocker yet: Shattering expectations with a $50-million opening weekend for their latest movie, Jackass 3D, the biggest October opening in Hollywood history. How did the "MTV-generated slapstick spectacle" do it? (Watch the Jackass 3D trailer)

It cleverly exploited 3D technology: Jackass is a "perfect fit for 3D," says Brandon Gray at Box Office Mojo. While other recent 3D flicks have made subtle use of the technology, Jackass 3D delivered big thrills, "outrageous things flying out of the screen... and a more immersive view of the stunts." That's a "lot of 3D bang for the buck," and a lot of bucks at the box office, when you account for the higher ticket price of 3D showings (which accounted for nearly 90 percent of the film's opening weekend business).
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It has the allure of nostalgia: Believe it or not, people feel a certain "pop-culture nostalgia" for the MTV show, which debuted in 2000, says Steven Zeitchik in the Los Angeles Times. A 25-year-old who saw the movie this weekend would have been a high school sophomore when "Jackass" premiered. For such a viewer, the prospect of seeing the gang back together on the big screen was "difficult to resist."
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The marketing department didn't overdo it: "Audiences were fully aware of the film’s existence without being beaten over the head by its marketing," say Katey Rich and Eric Eisenberg at Cinema Blend. The studio put out only one trailer and just a handful of photos and clips, so "there was some actual mystery surrounding what the boys would be getting themselves into the third time around. In the internet age, that’s nearly impossible to come by."
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Oh, c'mon, it was heavily promoted: Even if the marketing department didn't reveal everything, it promoted the film relentlessly, says Nikki Finke at Deadline Hollywood. Don't forget the 10-minutes of footage that premiered at Comic-Con, the tie-in with the "Jersey Shore" cast, and the extensive product licensing, including clothing, skateboards, sunglasses, Converse shoes, and even a book, "as if Jackass fans read."
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The film is genuinely funny and entertaining: "The Jackasses have elevated the act of groin-punching to high art," says Basem Boshra in The Vancouver Sun. They "deliver physical comedy boiled down to its essence, filtered through the DIY aesthetic of old skateboarding films and 'America's Funniest Home Videos.'" Finally, even critics and cultural commentators are recognizing that Johnny Knoxville is a "genius" worthy of screenings at the Museum of Modern Art and comparisons to Buster Keaton.
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