• Tue. May 28th, 2024

Movie Curiosities

The online diary of an aspiring movie nerd

Back in 2013, there was a documentary short called The Most Insane Amusement Park Ever, on the subject of Action Park in New Jersey. Opened in 1978, the park quickly gained notoriety for its rock-bottom safety record. The rides were poorly designed, the employees were underaged and insufficiently trained, guests and staff were constantly intoxicated, various incidents yielded multiple injuries and at least six fatalities, and thrill-seekers turned out in droves until the park was finally forced to shut down in 1996.

If you know anything about Johnny Knoxville and his friends in the Jackass brain trust, you can imagine how they reacted upon seeing this documentary.

Action Point opens with a young girl stuck at home with a broken foot. She’s looked after by her grandfather (D.C., played by Knoxville in his customary age makeup), who entertains her with stories of the amusement park he used to own back in the ’70s. The framing device in place, we flash back to when D.C. was a younger man and Knoxville is no longer in age makeup.

The “plot” begins with a neighboring corporate amusement park that just opened up, and D.C. responds thus: “They’re going to be about what you can’t do, and we’re going to be about what you can do.” So he works to stay competitive — and stay one step ahead of the debt collectors — by exploiting every legal loophole and breaking every safety precaution to make the most fast-paced and deliberately unsafe haven of chaos and excitement the world has ever seen.

While all of this is going on, D.C.’s estranged teenage daughter (inexplicably nicknamed “Boogie”, played by Eleanor Worthington Cox) comes over for the summer. So it is that D.C. has to learn how to be a responsible parent while running a flagrantly irresponsible business, how to connect with this girl who grew into a teenager when he wasn’t looking and do you really care?

The plot is so flimsy, predictable, and perfunctory that it barely deserves to be called as such. And the characters? Please. The cast features Dan Bakkedahl as the chief antagonist, which is basically raising a white flag. It’s a clear and unmistakable statement that nobody in this cast should be mistaken for an authentic and fleshed-out human being.

Knoxville plays a drunken and willfully ignorant asshole, but that actually makes sense. After all, nobody with two functioning brain cells would get into the kind of outrageously stupid situations that D.C. miraculously survives every ten minutes. Plus, if the character was wholly sympathetic, it wouldn’t be as much fun to see D.C. get the shit beaten out of him in a hundred different wildly improbable ways.

Boogie is probably the most interesting character in this cast, as she’s the “straight man” to serve as a sounding board for all the pre-“Nanny State” madness around her. She’s the reminder that there is a wide, broad world outside Action Point that D.C. is ignoring entirely. Furthermore, her well-being introduces something that D.C. is afraid of losing or damaging, which is something he never had to worry about all those years when she was on the other side of the country. Additionally, she brings up the important theme of nostalgia — as D.C. wistfully compares the young girl he knew with the teenager she irreversibly grew into, it calls to mind a simpler time when the nation was less litigious and more laissez-faire on the subject of dangerous behavior and personal responsibility.

Boogie plays a necessary role, and Cox does as well as could be expected opposite a camera hog like Knoxville. But the more dramatic stuff is so glaringly different from the rest of the movie, and it’s so clearly not what the filmmakers were interested in, that it only serves to stop the movie cold.

In case it wasn’t immediately obvious, this movie is all about the stunts. It’s all about watching Knoxville and his cohorts subject themselves to all kinds of outlandish physical abuse for our enjoyment. Even the supporting characters have virtually no development beyond what’s relevant to the stunts (Chris Pontius plays the one who’s perpetually high, Johnny Pemberton plays the tall skinny guy, Joshua Hoover is the fat guy, etc.). The female supporting players — specifically those played by Brigette Lundy-Paine and Camilla Wolfson — are quite noticeably wasted because they aren’t involved in any of the stunts. Oh, and I’d be lax not to mention all the jokes and stunts involving animals — I can’t find any complaints of animal cruelty against this picture, and I’m astonished at that.

Movies like Action Point are why I don’t hand out grades or numerical ratings in my reviews. It’s totally brainless, the plot is basically nonexistent, and the characters (with one or two exceptions) exist solely to be tossed around and beaten without remorse. The moments of genuine drama are few and far between, the stunts are as varied as they are outrageous, and the humor is so shocking and crass that it barely even qualifies as “bottom of the barrel”.

Depending on how you feel about Jackass and Johnny Knoxville’s brand of comedy, you will either read all of that as a scathing indictment or a ringing endorsement. This is a movie that knows exactly what it wants to be and who it was made for.

But even for the die-hard fans of Jackass, I can’t recommend this for a big-screen viewing. The stunts would be just as effective on home video, and I have a hard time justifying the ticket price for an 84-minute movie (and that’s including credits!) that barely qualifies as feature-length. And if this isn’t your taste in comedy, there’s no reason to bother at all.

By Curiosity Inc.

I hold a B.S. in Bioinformatics, the only one from Pacific University's Class of '09. I was the stage-hand-in-chief of my high school drama department and I'm a bass drummer for the Last Regiment of Syncopated Drummers. I dabble in video games and I'm still pretty good at DDR. My primary hobby is going online for upcoming movie news. I am a movie buff, a movie nerd, whatever you want to call it. Comic books are another hobby, but I'm not talking about Superman or Spider-Man or those books that number in the triple-digits. I'm talking about Watchmen, Preacher, Sandman, etc. Self-contained, dramatic, intellectual stories that couldn't be accomplished in any other medium. I'm a proud son of Oregon, born and raised here. I've been just about everywhere in North and Central America and I love it right here.

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