Directed by: Tim Kirkby
Premise: Set in the late 1970s or early 80s, a ragtag group of screw-ups and eccentrics run an amusement park. Their business is threatened when a fancy new park opens nearby, leading the crew to innovate with new and more dangerous attractions.
What Works: Action Point is a throwback to comedies of the late 1970s and early 80s like Meatballs and Porky’s. At that time there was an entire genre of vacation-themed comedies about young people getting up to mischief in a resort setting like a golf club or a summer camp. These films generally centered on misfits who come into conflict with snobby vacationers while getting into misadventures and experiencing sexual awakening. Viewers who have a fondness for those early 80s comedies might find something nostalgic in Action Point. While paying homage to the movies of that era, Action Point is also nostalgic for a kind of analog summertime that ceased to exist by the end of the 1980s. This was an era before digital technology put everyone in constant contact and before helicopter parenting and risk management blossomed in the culture. The filmmakers of Action Point look back on that period fondly and there is an anarchic spirit at the center of the movie that is both likable and genuinely counter cultural.
What Doesn’t: Unfortunately, that anarchic spirit isn’t marshalled into anything very entertaining. Action Point is built on two appeals—it’s a nostalgia piece and a Johnny Knoxville movie—and it doesn’t satisfy in either respect. Like Knoxville’s Bad Grandpa, this is a stunt show held together by a flimsy narrative. Action Point imitates movies like Meatballs and Porky’s but it doesn’t really understand them. There are traces of those films here like the conflict between snobs and slobs and the screwball comic bits but none of it is done well. Unlike Adventureland and Wet Hot American Summer, which were influenced by many of the same movies, there’s nothing to Action Point and it has nothing to say. The film has the framework of an interesting story between the park owner and his daughter played by Johnny Knoxville and Eleanor Worthington-Cox, respectively. But the characters are put through the predictable motions of a father-daughter story and when the filmmakers make a play for sentimentality it comes across forced and calculated. Action Point isn’t much of a stunt show either. The whole premise is an excuse for the kind of asinine stunts that Johnny Knoxville and his crew made a name for themselves with on Jackass. And the early ’80s amusement park is full of potential for their particular brand of comic mayhem. But nothing in Action Point is very daring or imaginative. The movie just isn’t very funny and the filmmakers carry on as though they are being much more transgressive than they actually are.
Bottom Line: Action Point is a hollow copy of the summer vacation comedies of a generation ago. It’s not much of an homage nor does it satisfy as a Jackass stunt show. This movie didn’t have to do much to succeed but the filmmakers can’t even find creative ways to beat up Johnny Knoxville.
Episode: #702 (June 10, 2018)