May 2, 2009 in Features

‘Demise and Rise’ not painful to watch

Robert Lloyd Los Angeles Times
 

On the air

“Steve-O: Demise and Rise” airs Sunday at 10 p.m. on MTV (cable channel 63 in Spokane, 43 in Coeur d’Alene).

“Look at that idiot” – those words pretty much account for the phenomenon that is “Jackass,” the former MTV stunt show that has continued to live through big-screen sequels and assorted spinoffs.

The latest of these is the unexpectedly serious, and seriously moving, “Steve-O: Demise and Rise,” which follows cast member Stephen “Steve-O” Glover down into a maelstrom of drugs, alcohol and bad, bad craziness and back up out of it.

Among Steve-O’s stunts: stapling his scrotum to his thigh; getting branded; bobbing for jellyfish; going through a car wash (outside the car).

In a different context, this might be labeled performance art, but in this one it is basically an extreme version of the unpleasant, dangerous things small boys, and frat boys, dare one another to do.

Most recently known as a contestant on “Dancing With the Stars,” the sober-for-a-year Steve-O is a likable guy, articulate and intelligent, with a goofy laugh and a toothy smile. Even as he goes completely off the rails, it is hard not to root for him.

“He was either going to end up incarcerated, dead or famous, and we didn’t really know what,” sister Cindy says.

You can look at “Demise and Rise” as a cautionary tale or as exploitation, and it’s probably a little of both. But either way, it’s an impressive, effective piece.

It ends happily (although Steve-O cautions he is not “cured,” only sober, day to day), with the 34-year-old lost boy hosting a skate party for kids on the occasion of his first sober birthday since he turned 16.

It’s beautiful to see, and nobody gets hurt.

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