Director: Tim Kirkby
Writers: John Altschuler (screenplay by), Dave Krinsky (screenplay by)
Stars: Johnny Knoxville, Brigette Lundy-Paine, Susan Yeagley
When the “Jackass” franchise effectively ended following 2010’s “Jackass 3D”, Johnny Knoxville found a way to keep the spirit of it alive. In 2013’s “Bad Grandpa” had Knoxville playing the elderly Irving Zisman and performed hidden camera pranks and stunts while bonding with his grandson. The film was a success and proved Knoxville could make a film that builds stunts around a loose narrative. “Action Point”, finds an elderly D.C. (Knoxville) telling his granddaughter about the time he owned the most dangerous amusement park of all time. The film then flashes back to a younger Knoxville and his Kamp Krusty level safety hazard Action Point . The staff is a bunch of degenerate teens and D.C.’s bizarre friend Benny (“Jackass” alum Chris Pontius). D.C. is delighted that he gets to spend the summer with his teenage daughter Boogie (Eleanor Worthington-Cox). He also has to contend with the owner of a corporate theme park (Dan Bakkedahl) who wants to close down Action Point and take the land. D.C. decides the best way to keep the park going is to eliminate the already flimsy safety standards at the park. That’s the basic framework of the story and at times it strains to find excuses for Knoxville and others to engage in dangerous stunts and gags.
The gags are mostly effective. Knoxville takes a great deal of punishment and it’s amazing he didn’t die (but he did suffer numerous injuries). The difference between him and a star like Tom Cruise endangering themselves is Knoxville intends for the stunts to fail. His goal is to hurt himself and giving the audience his trademark devil may care laugh. If there were a stunt category at the Oscars he’d definitely be worthy of one. He makes it all seem both effortless and at the same time reminding the audience how brutal it is. That being said it’s also worth noting that the anarchy promised by D.C. isn’t fully realised and it feels like a product of both not having enough people to engage in stunts and Knoxville’s body catching up with him. The non-Knoxville gags work just fine. Pontius doesn’t have to take any punishment but is on hand say or do something weird and or gross. He’s incredibly charming and reminiscent of that guy in high school who’s obnoxious yet able to get away with anything because people can’t help but laugh. It’s interesting that the gags are mostly limited to stunts as opposed to “Bad Grandpa” which implemented hidden camera pranks. This is an attempt at a more straightforward narrative that aspires to be a “Meatballs” or “Caddyshack” type of film that is loose, ambling, and looking to entertain.
The grounding elements of the story are D.C.’s relationship both with Boogie and his granddaughter. His granddaughter loves him even as the now grown Boogie doesn’t want him regaling her with stories of Action Point or engaging in the mildly dangerous activities they engage in around the house. The relationship between past D.C. and Boogie is mostly sweet. He begins to realise that she’s growing up and tries to connect with her while simultaneously trying to save the park at all costs. There is a lot of great material to be mined, unfortunately the relationship between adult Boogie and elderly D.C. isn’t clear. It’s implied that Boogie got uptight as a result of her time at Action Point but that’s not really explored because she’s gone for the entire film so he can babysit. It’s implied that she’s a helicopter parent but that never comes through. She’s portrayed as mildly amused by him, the way a kid is both over an uncle’s “pull my finger” bit but goes along with it anyway. His granddaughter is in a cast and it feels like it should be part of the story given all the injuries that Action Point causes and how D.C. believes people are responsible for their own injuries but it isn’t. Knoxville has great chemistry both with Worthington-Cox and the actress that plays his granddaughter. Unfortunately, the story is too all over the place to make any of the more tender moments land. Much like “Bad Grandpa” there’s a sweetness underneath all the crudity but in “Action Point” it’s less effective. That’s largely because Boogie herself is an underwritten character.
The other unfortunate part of the film is the way it doesn’t do anything with the side characters. His staff or “shit birds” are family to D.C. and they love the park because it’s the only place they are accepted. The problem is none of them have any real character traits and the actors get very little to do other than to assist with a stunt or gag. It is also clear that the lack of budget keeps the park from being as gonzo as it’s meant to be. They make great use of the animals at the park, particularly the alcoholic brown bear that lives next door to D.C. While it’s fun seeing D.C. bond with his granddaughter it doesn’t feel necessary from a narrative perspective and serves only to indulge Knoxville’s love of old age make up. The only bit of insight to stem from it is the meta-bit where D.C. and his granddaughter are watching viral videos of people doing similar stuff to what Knoxville and the “Jackass” crew brought to the mainstream.
All “Action Point” wants is to have a good time. It’s mostly a good time but feels like it could’ve been a great time. The soundtrack is full of obscure tracks and the stunts are solid. It tries to have a cohesive story and doesn’t quite succeed. Still, it manages to pack a lot of comedy bits in a short amount of time. It maintains the punk rock ethos of “Jackass” and is wistful of a time where kids could do stupid stuff without worrying about the consequences. It pays lip service to the idea that in a world that is far more politically correct than it used to be, there’s still room for a little insanity.