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07 Jun 2018

Not Enough 'Action': A Boring Narrative Lets Down Both Johnny Knoxville and the Real Amusement Park Depicted in 'Action Point'

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Johnny Knoxville in Action Point. Johnny Knoxville in Action Point.

Something has gone terribly wrong in Jackass-land since Bad Grandpa.

While Bad Grandpa wasn’t technically a Jackass movie, it was a “Jackass Presents” movie, and it had the usual Jackass movie director, Jeff Tremaine. The results were the kind of fun we expect from a Jackass movie—with a little more of a narrative plot, but with the emphasis remaining on the killer stunts.

Now comes Action Point—which is a stinky pile of shit. The Jackass label and director are gone, with only stars Johnny Knoxville and Chris Pontius representing the former crew. The slant goes much more toward the narrative—a boring narrative—with only a few OK stunts thrown in. It’s an uneven, embarrassing, unfunny mess.

That’s a shame, because Knoxville proves he’s certainly still game to get his ass kicked for cinematic glory (although he’s looking a little beat up these days), and the “true” story at the center of the movie is one ripe for Jackass-type fun. Alas, the formula simply doesn’t work.

The story is based upon a real, now semi-defunct amusement park—Action Park in New Jersey—where at least six people were killed. I grew up on Long Island and would go to this park in the ’80s. It’s now legendary for its danger factor—you can see the stories on the Internet. It’s a place where safety wasn’t really on the top of everybody’s list of concerns.

I nearly drowned in the tidal-wave pool (others actually did); I marveled at the cannonball-loop slide I could never go on because it was closed (due to broken bones, limbs and noses; that ride is lamely immortalized in this movie). There was also an “alpine slide” with a cement track atop which you rode in plastic car with a shaky brake; you were in complete control of whether or not you met your bloody demise. It was fucking crazy.

Sadly, the movie inspired by it is not. It’s dumb, and it plays it safe. It’s basically an insult to the legend of Action Park, or Death Park, as we liked to call it.

Knoxville plays D.C., an older man baby-sitting his granddaughter in the present day. The role calls for the old-age makeup Knoxville usually wears so well. D.C. reminisces about a crazy park he once owned called Action Point, and the story flashes back to the 1980s and D.C.’s efforts to create a thrill ride/water park where “you are in control.”

Back in the ’80s, D.C. tries to save the park from evil land developers while trying to entertain his daughter, Boogie (Eleanor Worthington-Cox), who is visiting for the summer. There’s some sentimental nonsense involving the father-daughter relationship, which acts as nothing but a roadblock to what we want to really see … the stunts.

Those stunts are only mildly amusing, and few and far between. They include Knoxville getting catapulted through a barn (pretty good), Knoxville getting blasted by a water hose (OK) and Knoxville hanging around a beer swilling bear (funny the first time; been there, done that by the 10th). At one point, they tempt a squirrel into Pontius’ shorts to fetch acorns and tickle his balls. It does appear to me that some animals—including the squirrel, an ostrich, an alligator and a porcupine—were mildly abused during the making of this film. Any animal that has to hang out near Pontius’ ball sack should be considered harmed.

Let’s face it: Knoxville needs to slow down on the daredevil stuff, lest he meet an early grave. Bad Grandpa, and now Action Point, are evidence of this. What Knoxville needs is a new Jackass crew he can mentor from the sidelines.

Action Point is proof he is beyond the point where he can take a herd of buffalo to his midsection. It’s also proof he needs Tremaine and co. to help guide the mayhem. This new crew is lamer than the cannonball loop being closed every time I tried to ride it.

Action Point is playing at theaters across the valley.

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