Action Point is like Jackass, in that it contains dangerous stunts and people finding humor in harming the human body. It is also far removed from Jackass, in that it is a narrative film. This is to say that, you know, it has a narrative.
This is the first misstep that Action Point makes. The plot goes about its business, setting up set pieces and montages that show off the back-breaking stunt gags. It does this fine. Sure, it can be funny the first or second time that protagonist Johnny Knoxville flies off of a rickety water slide.
But the novelty of this quickly wears out its welcome. Fortunately, the film is only 85 minutes long. Unfortunately, the boilerplate story makes it feel closer to two hours.
It’s a simple underdog tale with simple characters, the two most prominent of which engage in a simple daddy issues subplot. D.C. (Knoxville) runs a disastrously unsafe amusement park in the California desert. Then D.C.’s peer from high school (Dan Bakkedahl) swoops in and buys nearby property to release a bigger, better, safer amusement park.
At the same time, D.C.’s daughter (Eleanor Worthington-Cox) arrives from New York. Because D.C. has mostly been an absentee father, she is looking to have her mother’s boyfriend signed on as her legal guardian. D.C. doesn’t even know it, but the summer with her could save their relationship.
None of this makes for compelling storytelling. It’s all been exhaustively done before. It’s torpid and bland. Once the physical humor starts trending in the same direction, the entire film flattens at a rapid pace.
There is the throwaway scene here and there that has humor without resorting to throwing, or throwing something at, Johnny Knoxville. There’s a scene involving a boycott that’s fairly funny. But there’s also the occasional bit that is tone deaf, like the classically unfunny concept of grown men being uncomfortable by the mere suggestion of a menstrual cycle.
The performances keep Action Point from being the broken down water slides that appear in the movie. Knoxville has smarmy charm, and the hatchet-wielding Benny is played with goofy exuberance by Chris Pontius.
But the film just doesn’t hold together. The jokes run thin early. The plot is uninspired and fails hard when it decides to play the heartstrings. There isn’t enough here to justify selling it at full ticket price.
It might not be worth seeing in theaters, but credit should be given where it is due. The stunt work is on par with other Jackass stunts. And the set design is stellar, in that the sets do resemble with believability a rundown place where one may fly off the rails of a water slide and tumble into the dirt.
Action Point: C-
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—Alex Brannan (@TheAlexBrannan)