You ever go into a movie and wonder what you’re doing with your life being there? Well I’m about to review a movie that brought that kind of realization for me over the weekend. I’m already an admittedly harsh critic of comedy movies but as I’ve said before in past reviews I can appreciate films that go all in and embrace their goofy, ridiculous premise to the fullest. I was kind of hoping that’s what we would get from the latest film from “Jackass” co-creator Johnny Knoxville and freshman director Tim Kirkby called “Action Point” but not only was I disappointed, the film actually became one of those rare movies that made me want my money back when all was said and done. You could say I jumped the gun here and summarized my whole review in one paragraph, but I still have a lot to say about this failure of a comedy. So, let’s take a closer look as this train wreck. This is my review of “Action Point”.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT
“Action Point” stars Johnny Knoxville as Deshawn Crious “D.C.” Carver in both the present day and in the prime of his adulthood years earlier. In the present-day D.C. is an old man (in makeup similar to Knoxville’s character from “Bad Grandpa”) recalling his ownership of a theme park called Action Point for his granddaughter. In his flashbacks D.C. recalls a visit from his daughter Boogie (Eleanor Worthington Cox) as a large theme park company called 7-Parks attempts to buy out Action Point and close it down. In an attempt to keep his park relevant D.C. and his staff concoct and build increasingly outrageous and dangerous rides and park features to draw back the younger crowd and save the park. The film features many “Jackass” inspired stunts mostly performed by Knoxville himself and was inspired by the real life New Jersey based Action Park, a theme park that was infamous as the most dangerous theme park in the United States.
This is going to be a little short because there’s not a lot I enjoyed about “Action Point”, but I did at least enjoy some things. The only performance that stood out for me was the youngest actor on set, newcomer Eleanor Worthington Cox who is shown in the above photo with Knoxville. Cox sometimes acts as the voice of reasons and other times is the most charming badass of the bunch. This is Cox’s first starring role and only her second film overall after 2014’s “Maleficent” and yet she is the most committed actor in this cast. Yes, there are a few that embrace goofy personalities and character traits, but Cox’s Boogie is the most well rounded and developed character by far. Although Boogie does embrace her on-screen father’s wild influence by the end of the story, for the most part she shows more maturity than anyone else on screen. What’s even more notable is that this is a film that is supposed to live off of its oddball crew, but it’s the one straight laced lady, and a child at that, that truly sells it. An odd bit of irony for a film meant to be a raucous comedy.
Although I didn’t find “Action Point” to be all that amusing, when it is funny it’s sidesplittingly hilarious. We get VERY few moments that bring sincere laughs but the one thing I can give “Action Point” credit for is that it follows the “Jackass” theme to the letter and, for better or worse, gives viewers the self-abusing Johnny Knoxville clichés we’ve all really come to see. It’s not as over the top or effective as past films in the “Jackass” library but if you go in looking for nothing more than the dangerous “don’t try this at home” stunts there’s at least something to enjoy and I must admit these stunts are pretty inventive in the context of a theme park setting. Pranks and bodily injury may be a lower form of comedy, but we’ve seen in films like “Super Troopers” and its sequel that this approach can result in some good laughs. “Action Point” falls in line with its predecessors in making this unique and frankly dangerous form of entertainment work to an extent.
WHAT DIDN’T WORK
Oh, where do I begin. Yes “Action Point” takes advantage of its injury and stunt-based comedy, but when Johnny Knoxville isn’t willingly getting his ass kicked there’s really no substance of any kind to this film. Outside of the physical comedy there’s nothing to keep you laughing. Knoxville himself is bland as can be adding no charm or likability to his character. He basically plays himself just kind of rolling with the motions waiting for his chance to do something ridiculous and dangerous. The rest of the cast try to embrace unique characters but none of them are very impressive or developed. They’re just kind of there filling in the most basic goofy stereotypes just for the sake of putting together a shell of a film. It’s almost like Knoxville called up his closest friends and said “hey guys I’m going to build and destroy and amusement park and while I’m at it we’re going to try some goofy stunts. Are you in?”. To tell you the truth even where “Action Point” works it doesn’t work near as well as the films that came before it.
In the past the “Jackass” formula worked reasonably well for what it was. It created some decent laughs in “Bad Grandpa” and filled a niche in the “Jackass” movies, but here it feels like the concept has become stale. Even with the goofy stunts “Action Point” offers little to nothing new that we haven’t seen in past projects. What’s worse, the filmmakers try to work in a background story that is shallow, underutilized and cliché all on its own to the point where having any story at all just feels like an excuse to create and proceed to destroy a dangerous amusement park just for the fun of it. Take away the stunts and “Action Point” is nothing more than a dry, unfunny and boring comedy with nothing new to offer despite a promising premise that could have made for an interesting story in better hands.
But there lies the biggest sin of this movie. The idea of a dangerous theme park actually sounds good on paper. It’s unique, based on a real life park and could have created a truly memorable oddball genre piece. But “Action Point” wastes all that potential. There is an attempt to inject some heart into the story, or what there is of a story, but it’s all for not. The drama lacks sincerity and the humor lacks conviction which makes for a film trying to hard to be one thing and not even doing that well while phoning in everything else. “Bad Grandpa” worked because it had an identity. “Jackass” worked because it had a niche. “Action Point” fails because it not only has neither of these but wastes a perfectly good idea on lazy writing and a gimmick that noone seems to care to see anymore.
“Action Point” just never takes off. It lacks direction and tends to either try too hard or not hard enough to get a few laughs or tug at the heart strings with a cheap family conflict. Clearly there was no care or consideration to add any substance to this film other than its cheap dependence on body humor and that to me is unforgivable. Even for a film I didn’t expect much from I walked out of “Action Point” feeling mostly cheated and like I wasted the hour and 20 minutes it took me to get to the credits. Even when it works via its “Jackass” inspired stunts it only brings mild chuckles at best. This is the kind of movie that leans on the most basic of tropes and clichés while hoping a familiar formula would pay off and sadly it does not. A film about an unsafe amusement park seems like a unique and fun concept for a comedy, especially one involving goofy and dangerous stunts and outrageous characters. Somehow though “Action Point” ends up being lifeless, mostly unfunny and spoils its premise by adding little to nothing new or interesting to a genre in desperate need of something worthwhile in 2018.