The biggest surprise about Action Point, Johnny Knoxville’s latest attempt at recapturing the Jackass magic in narrative form, is that one of of the five credited screenwriters is Mike fuckin’ Judge.
Yes, you read that right: The King of the Hill creator and Office Space director was presumably brought in to add some depth to the daddy-daughter relationship at the core of the film, which just sort of shows how far off the mark we are now from the heyday of dicking around and injuring yourself in order to make people laugh. Now we have to pretend to give a shit about an unscrupulous theme park owner’s relationship with his Clash-loving kid and his employees in order to get to the meat of the thing. How far we have fallen.
Based on a real theme park — New Jersey’s Action Park, a famous anarchic paradise that wound up killing a number of its attendees over the years before it was finally shut down — but lacking any of the thrills or the risks that it brought to its guests, this is another slobs versus snobs film cranked out to sucker in rubes left and right with the hope that they’ll laugh at something.
Knoxville, who some how looks less at ease when trying to cry onscreen than he does in pounds of old-age makeup, is trying to beat off developers who want to turn his park into condos, people from the city who want to close his park for safety reasons, and the bank, from whom he’d taken out a large loan from, and after being shot down a water slide with a fire hose, comes up with a great idea: What if a theme park, but too much? What if you took the breaks off all of the rides? Kids love to get hurt! What follows involves alcoholic bears, dogs licking semen off of Chris Pontius’ hands, Knoxville disappointing his daughter and having to win back her trust, and a conclusion that just leaves you hanging.
Action Point, all 85 minutes of it, just doesn’t really have a good reason to exist in a post-Jackass world. The first scene sees Knoxville, in primo old-man make-up watching fail comps with his granddaughter and reminiscing about old times. Times just ain’t like they used to be, he says, before saying the term “honest injun” and reflecting that you can’t say that stuff anymore in these “PC times.” That’s kind of the whole ethos of the film itself, which seems to be making an argument for “personal responsibility” in the same way your shitty aunt’s memes about how she was able to survive without that there fancy-ass polio vaccine back in the day. But it comes across as weirdly scolding, rehashing the same bullshit about tort reform that we get from people who don’t realize that every once in a while, it’s a good thing to sue people who horribly injure you.
Knoxville and company want to remind you how great unleaded fuel was, how fun drunk driving is with your pals back when we just called them beers “road sodas” (they ain’t never killed nobody!), and just how much better you had it when your charismatic uncle raided the medicine cabinet back in the day. It’s one thing to pay tribute to the anarchic boundary-pushing spirit of youth and childhood — much as the Jackass crew actually did up until this film — but if you’re just going to make a light-ass version of Meatballs with none of the charisma and even fewer jokes, you can leave that shit at home and forget about it.
Just watch Bad Grandpa again, which has more heart and vigor packed into its first 10 minutes than this entire thing does. I say this as a massive Jackass fan and an incredibly cheap laugh: Action Point is a remarkably unfunny moment of creative bankruptcy for Knoxville and company, and it’s scary to think about this being anything more than a one-off fuck-up.
That beer-guzzling bear is pretty funny, though, I guess. I don’t even know anymore.