For those who loved watching people get covered in poop and stick toy cars up their asses, Jackass was a show about a bunch of morons doing moronic things for attention and money. For others, it was the closest a TV show could get to representing subversive performance art. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle.
When the Jackass crew transferred their talents to feature films, they had no intention of adding any artsy-fartsy plots or characters. They knew exactly what their fans wanted, and just presented a bigger, grosser, more painful version of their show. Yet after the third Jackass movie, as the gang got older and began to split up even more, head honcho Johnny Knoxville decided to wrap the usually disconnected stunts and ruthlessly uncomfortable candid camera pranks into a thinly veiled narrative in the form of 2013’s Bad Grandpa. Now comes Action Point, which provides even more plot than Bad Grandpa to present a dull-witted and torturously episodic send-up to raunchy ’80s comedies, with occasional Jackass-type stunts.
Action Point begins with a framing device ripped off from Princess Bride showing grandpa D.C. (Johnny Knoxville in rubbery old age make-up) telling his granddaughter resting with a leg cast about his crazy experiences running a wild, unruly and purposefully dangerous theme park back in the 1980s. Grandpa D.C. isn’t the same character from Bad Grandpa, but he is the same cranky, un-PC caricature—so why wasn’t this wasn’t marketed as a spin-off? Anyway, as Grandpa D.C. tells the story, we of course flash back to young D.C. loosely supervising the day-to-day activities of his theme park, Action Point, a reckless free-for-all for any delinquent looking to break a couple of bones after doing copious amount of drugs. In other words, it’s for the core fanbase of Jackass.
If only the movie itself was random and giddily stupid enough to serve the expectations of those fans. But Knoxville and gang, which includes Jackass pal Chris Pontius as D.C.’s lovable dipshit brother, genuinely try to harken back to the unorthodox camp/fraternity/burger joint/theme park comedies of their youth, full of weird but likable oddballs and outcasts fighting the bigger, shinier, soulless, corporate camp/fraternity/burger joint/theme park that just opened up next door, threatening their existence. In the case of Action Point, the overwhelming competition comes in the form of a Six Flags stand-in, complete with a humorless stiff in a suit (Dan Bakkedahl) representing “The Man.” Of course his only real purpose to exist is to be the recipient of a wide array of homophobic slurs by Action Point’s crew.
Once this conflict is introduced, Action Point gets stuck in a narrative loop without any sub-plots or forward momentum: The park is not making enough money to compete with the other park; D.C. and gang come up with a dangerous scheme; things go comically wrong but they pull it off, only to find out immediately that the park is still not making enough money; the gang comes up with another scheme; etc. You get the picture.
Of course such a thin plot from some of the Jackass guys would have been completely forgiven, or even blissfully ignored, if the stunts were on par, or at least close to, what we expect from these guys. Most of the time, we get quick stunts of D.C. destroying his body in wacky ways, which go by so fast, and are so sporadic, most can be seen in the trailer. To his credit, Knoxville performs all of the stunts, and there’s a single sequence that fits the Jackass formula: D.C. stuffs a bunch of nuts next to his brother’s nuts in order to capture a squirrel, and Knoxville laughs out of character as the squirrel nibbles at Chris Pontius’s testicles.
An attempt at an emotionally potent sub-plot involving the fractured relationship between D.C. and his estranged daughter, Boogie (Eleanor Wothington-Cox), also crashes and burns due to how predictable this arc becomes. Boogie’s one character trait is that she really wants to go to the Clash concert with her dad. Do you think that will be used as a cheap second act break to show how D.C. is too obsessed with the park to give his daughter the attention she deserves? It’s hard to understand why Action Point exists at all.
Director: Tim Kirkby
Writers: John Altschuler, Dave Krinsky
Starring: Johnny Knoxville, Chris Pontius, Dan Bakkedahl, Eleanor Worthington-Cox, Susan Yeagley
Release Date: June 1, 2018