There are many movies that are worth seeing, but there are a lot of stinkers as well. My goal here is to weed out the good from the bad.
Joe Gatto, James “Murr” Murray, Brian “Q” Quinn, and Sal Vulcano form a comedy group known as the Tenderloins. They star in their hit hidden camera prank show called Impractical Jokers, and they have known each other pretty much all their lives. Their pranks frequently involve putting themselves in embarrassing situations, which test the limits of what they are willing to do. Over the years, they have done many crazy pranks, but it all started at a Paula Abdul concert when they were in high school.
In a series of dares, the group ended up catastrophically ruining Abdul’s concert, at which point the pop star swore she would one day get revenge. Now, the Tenderloins have grown up, and they have run into Abdul once again. She does not remember them ruining her concert all those years ago, but she is a huge fan of theirs now, and she invites them to a party she is hosting in Miami. The only problem is that Paula only gave the Tenderloins three tickets. In order to decide who gets to attend the party and who does not, the Tenderloins decide to embark on a road trip to Miami. They will compete in a series of hidden camera pranks along the way, and whoever loses the most challenges will not be given a ticket to Abdul’s party.
The Pros & Cons
|The Pros||The Cons|
The Tenderloins (+5pts)
The Punishments (-3pts)
The Premise (+4pts)
The Format (-4pts)
The Pranks (+5pts)
Scripted vs. Non-Scripted (-3pts)
Pro: The Tenderloins (+5pts)
I really enjoy watching the four guys who make up the Tenderloins. They are all fearless and shameless—with Joe being the most fearless of the bunch—and watching them participate in their challenges and punishments is an absolute blast. Yet funny as they and the situations they put themselves in are, what makes them so fun to watch is their very real friendship. It is clear that these guys have been friends for a very long time, and it is clear they enjoy messing with each other. It makes watching them feel like you are hanging out with a fun group of friends, and it makes it feel like you are in on all of their jokes and pranks. As long as it took me to give their show a shot, they hit a gold mine with their show Impractical Jokers and a movie based on that show and starring the four of them was bound to provide some laughs.
Con: The Punishments (-3pts)
Fans of the show will know that these guys have two different types of pranks: challenges, and punishments. On each episode of the show, the guys compete in challenge pranks, and whoever loses will have to be in a punishment prank at the end. That format works really well for the show, because it is simple, it gives each challenge a sense of purpose, and it leads to a usually hilarious punishment—at the loser‘s expense. In the movie, the ultimate punishment was that the loser was not going to attend Paula Abdul’s party—although there was a hilarious additional punishment that came with the credits. However, the Tenderloins clearly wanted to sprinkle in some additional punishments along the way, and it was these sprinkled punishments that I did not think worked.
Sal’s punishment was actually pretty funny, Joe’s was a little less, and Q’s felt more random than anything else—I honestly do not remember Murr’s, if there even was one. Unfortunately, even the best of these punishment pranks felt out of place. They did not fit within the format of the road trip competition, and they all also ended awkwardly or abruptly. It was like the Tenderloins had their idea for the movie, as well as their ideas for the challenges, but then they realized they also wanted a punishment for each member of the group, so they just squeezed these into the movie random. They all just felt like random tangents to what the movie was really about, and most of them were not even that funny. They were not bad ideas for punishments, but they probably would have worked better as punishments in the TV show, in which they would not have had to fit within a larger narrative.
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Pro: The Premise (+4pts)
When I saw this movie existed, I wondered what it would be about. Was it just a long version of their TV show, or was it going to be something else? Then I saw the trailer, and I thought the movie had a good premise. The idea of a road trip, in which the Tenderloins were driving toward an event that only three of them would be able to attend, worked well.
The premise of this movie played into the competitive nature of the Tenderloins, it naturally provided a prize for the guys to compete for, and it naturally provided a punishment for the loser—driving all that way for nothing. It also meant we would see plenty of pranks in a similar vein to what has worked so well on the TV show. My main worry before seeing the movie was whether or not the movie would feel like a movie or just another episode of the show. Fortunately, the idea the Tenderloins came up with worked, as it provided everything with a sense of purpose, it provided a goal that raised the stakes, and it made way for plenty of funny pranks that were similar enough to the TV show to justify calling this Impractical Jokers: The Movie.
Con: The Format (-4pts)
One thing I thought the filmmakers could have done better was establish the format of the road trip competition. In the TV show, the format of every episode is clear. The Tenderloins compete in two or three prank challenges, and the loser gets a prank punishment. With the movie, and the obviously larger runtime, I was not sure what the format of the competition would be. I knew it would be longer than an episode of the show, but beyond that, the filmmakers mostly kept us in the dark.
How many challenges would there be? Would all four Tenderloins compete in every challenge, or would their be some challenges that were one-on-one? If there were any one-on-one challenges, how did they determine who would compete against who? Were they doing challenges until one person got a specific number of losses, or was their a predetermined number of challenges and whoever had the most losses at the end loses the whole thing? It may not sound like any of these questions were that big of a deal, but not answering any of them meant that I did not know how far away the finish line of this competition was. This meant that, while I knew who was losing at any given time, I had no idea how much time they would have to catch up—if any—which meant I never really felt the suspense of the competition nearing its end. Laying out the format of this competition from the get go would have helped suck me into it, and it would have made things progressively more suspenseful and engaging as the competition got closer and closer to its conclusion.
Pro: The Pranks (+5pts)
If you have seen the TV show, then you will know what kinds of pranks and shenanigans the Tenderloins would get into in this movie. The Tenderloins have come up with 9 seasons’ worth of hilarious pranks for their TV show, so it should be no surprise that they were able to come up with a movie’s worth of pranks for this movie. The pranks were funny, and they were set in various locations across the country—between New York City and Miami. It was a movie with plenty of laughs, and that was because it consisted of the Tenderloins doing what they do best: putting each other in embarrassing and hilarious situations.
Con: Scripted vs. Non-Scripted (-3pts)
Another thing I thought the filmmakers could have done better was how the scripted scenes were handled. To be fair, this was a movie with a series of real, hidden camera pranks connected by a narrative story, so on some level this movie had to be a combination of scripted and non-scripted scenes. The problem I had with the scripted was not that this movie had scripted scenes at all, but it was instead with how fake those scenes felt. They just felt incredibly rehearsed, so when the movie was also filled with plenty of non-scripted scenes in which the Tenderloins were their real selves, it made the fake, scripted scenes stick out like a really sore thumb. These scenes did not ruin the movie for me, but they did take me out of the movie multiple times.
Grade: C+ (79pts)
I have been seeing ads for Impractical Jokers—the TV show, not this movie—for years, and I always thought it looked dumb. Then, a couple months ago, I ended up stumbling upon some clips on Youtube and I was hooked. I think all the ads I saw must have been out of context enough that I did not get it. I thought it looked dumb, but I could not have been more wrong. The show is pretty funny, and as hilarious as the pranks are, the Tenderloins are what make it so great.
The Tenderloins have a fun dynamic that makes returning to the show a pleasure, and when I saw there was a movie, I knew I had to check it out. The idea of having this group of four only being given three tickets to Paula Abdul’s VIP event was a perfect idea for this movie. It gave the Tenderloins a very natural competition with clear stakes, it made way for plenty of hilarious pranks, and it was a premise that leaned into what has worked so well for the TV show. Unfortunately, there was certainly room for improvement. I thought the format of the competition could have been more clear, I thought the punishment pranks felt out of place, and the scripted scenes felt so fake that they took me out of the movie multiple times. This was not a bad movie by any stretch of the imagination, but while there were plenty of laughs throughout the movie, there was plenty of room for improvement as well.