Collin's been a movie critic since 2009. In real life he works in marketing and is also a novelist ("Good Riddance" published in Oct 2015).
Once upon a time, dear children, there was Jackass―a gaggle of gents who did anything and everything painful to their bodies in the name of comedy. Nothing off limits. Snakebites, stun guns, and car crashes were among the more tame methods of infliction.
It’s been eight years since we’ve heard from them as a group, but fearless leader Johnny Knoxville pops up every so often, most recently toting the Jackass brand in 2015’s Bad Grandpa. His latest, Action Point, isn’t officially part of the Jackass oeuvre, but it may as well be. And loosely basing the story on the real-life (now defunct) calamitous Action Park in New Jersey is clearly right up Knoxville’s alley. The park is, after all, blamed for the deaths of a half-dozen people and was eventually shut down following charges of unsafe rides, drunk staff, and underage workers.
If that doesn’t scream Jackass, I don’t know what does. So why does Action Point feel like a rather lame rip-off that shrugs off boorish behavior in favor of a sappy-happy daddy-daughter bonding story?
Knoxville stars as DC, first seen in pseudo-Bad Grandpa makeup, as he’s babysitting his granddaughter. She wants to hear about the good ol’ days, so he regales her with the story of when he owned an amusement park.
Flashback to the summer of 1979, and DC is a derelict man-child who runs Action Point, where the water slide is held together by duct tape, the petting zoo has a porcupine, and the ticket taker is high as a kite. He never doesn’t have a can of Schlitz in his hands, and his solution to everything seems to be “Eh, rub some dirt on it.”
When a rival, big-money park moves in down the road, business goes south, and DC decides the best way to attract new customers is to make the park even more dangerous—no limits, anything goes, even if (or maybe because… who can tell?) it means he gets slammed, banged, bitten, whacked, and launched through the air like a rag doll.
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The genius (sure, let’s call it that) of Jackass was that it never tried to tell a story. It was merely a group of idiots trying to one-up the next in the pain and humiliation department. And that’s precisely why Action Point fails. The main plot of the movie, it turns out, centers on DC’s attempt to bond with his estranged daughter Boogie (Eleanor Worthington Cox). So anytime there’s a particularly whack-a-doo scene of self-imposed torture, it’s immediately followed by a soft and gooey moment where DC tries to make up for lost time with her. It makes for what may be the most herky-jerky movie in recent memory, with the warm and fuzzy immediately canceling out the flinch-worthy stunts, and vice versa.
The script, such as it is, comes courtesy of comedy vets Dave Krinsky and John Altschuler, who should have known better than to try an inject a little heart into the proceedings. The same goes for director Tim Kirkby (Brockmire, Veep), We’re not here to watch Knoxville grow a pair, we’re here to watch him get kicked in them. With apologies to Longfellow, when Action Point is funny, it’s very, very funny, but when it’s not, it’s horrid.