Johnny Knoxville in ‘Action Point’ – Mostly Enjoyable Joyride
A ridiculously perilous 1970s event congregation gives the perfect area to Johnny Knoxville’s extraordinarily imbecilic brand of self-harsh tricks.
Director: Tim Kirkby
With: Johnny Knoxville, Chris Pontius
Release Date: Jun 1, 2018
Duration: 1 hour 24 minutes
Rated R for crude sexual content, language, drug use, teen drinking, and brief graphic nudity
Playing: In general release
The Johnny Knoxville amusement-park comedy Action Point is extraordinarily gentle for a film in which a man is catapulted through a barn wall and a little kid whomps a guy in a bear suit in the nuts. It has a loose, ramshackle feel, maybe because, as in Knoxville’s Jackassmovies, it gets its oomph not from smash-and-bash editing and an orchestral racket but long takes of people doing amazingly risky (and often really dumb) things. Some of the purest laughs come when Knoxville — who plays D.C., the stumblebum owner of the rundown park — converses with his motley management team while behind them someone flies across the frame or dangles helplessly from a broken chairlift. Calamity is a fact of life at Action Park. A hefty fellow jumps onto a water slide and goes right through the plastic to the ground, after which D.C. says, “What were you trying to do?” and the guy, nursing a mangled leg, says, “I was trying to go faster.” D.C. says, “That’s fair,” and walks away, satisfied. No biggie.
Okay, in one respect, it is a biggie. As an overprotective dad who has taken his kids to amusement parks and cringed while watching them spin delightedly on swings 50 feet in the air, I’m not given to guffawing at such calamities. There were casualties at the New Jersey park that inspired Action Point; and, recently, a Midwest congressman’s kid was decapitated by a poorly designed (allegedly — there’s a lawsuit) coaster. When I raised that incident in a conversation with Knoxville at the recent Vulture Festival, he didn’t have much to say.
But of course that’s why I laughed like a hyena during the movie: It’s liberating to be told — implicitly — that for 90 minutes you don’t have to worry about real-world consequences. People are nearly engulfed in flames; illegal fireworks are set off; a 13-year-old swills beer; D.C. tries to create a petting zoo by capturing animals in the wild, including a porcupine and a bear. The facts that the scary stunts were done in real time and there’s no CGI adds to the naughty, irresponsible fun. And it’s all okay as long as idiots Don’t Try This at Home, which frankly isn’t my problem. Yes, offscreen, Knoxville was injured more than in any Jackass film. (He told me, “I got four concussions, broke my wrist, busted my knee, got stitches, whiplash, uh, lost two and half teeth … Once I got home from the emergency room after one bad concussion … I blew my nose, and when I did, my left eye popped out of the socket.”) Onscreen, his crew crowds around as he writhes on the ground and applauds when he rises. As in Jackass, the vibe is familial. They’re all in it together.
The plot of Action Point is generic slobs-versus-squares. The bank is on the verge of calling in a loan of a hundred grand, and a humorless Realtor named Knoblach — whom D.C. calls, of course, “Knob-lick” — wants to buy up the land for the owner of a fancier amusement park a half-hour away. That’s when D.C. hatches his plan to make the park even more dangerous. The other story line centers on D.C.’s relationship with his visiting 13-year-old daughter, Boogie (Eleanor Worthington-Cox, who originated the lead in the musical Matilda). Too focused on the park, D.C. hasn’t shown much responsibility as a dad. (His dilapidated house is like a boy’s club.) Although Boogie falls in with D.C.’s team in their attempt to make Action Point a success, she has trouble holding his attention.
Knoxville has a likable, modest presence — he’s primarily a straight man. What’s around him, however, is very, very variable. I loved the bit when D.C. frantically searches for the pissed-off, runaway Boogie and discovers that the bus station is full of pissed-off runaway daughters and similarly frantic fathers. But fewer than half the gags land. The Brit director, Tim Kirkby, has done sophisticated work. (He collaborated on a U.K. TV series with one of my favorite comedians, the meta genius Stewart Lee.) But he doesn’t protect the actors. The sweet-natured Jackass vet Chris Pontius needed more careful handling. (A scene in which he sneaks into a TV station to slip an Action Point commercial into the mix is badly mistimed, although the audience certainly reacts to the gross-out punch line.) The agreeable looseness edges into a less agreeable limpness.
I saw Action Point at a midnight screening in Times Square (the film wasn’t screened for critics) with my 20-year-old daughter, who laughed a fair bit but overall disliked it intensely. She said, “It’s for 8-year-old boys — like you.” Ouch.
But that is the movie’s reason for being. I thought the movie’s framing device helped put the film over. It takes place decades later, when Knoxville’s D.C. (in the familiar, Bad Grandpa old-age makeup) tells the story of his adventure to Boogie’s daughter, laid up with a broken leg. Their scenes are tender: The girl loves her grandpa’s wayward temperament, and D.C. gets to relive his antic, overgrown-juvenile days. As much as my daughter’s contempt stung, I look forward to enjoying such movies one day with my granddaughter.
Film Review: Johnny Knoxville in ‘Action Point’
Reviewed at Pacific Theatres at the Grove, Los Angeles, June 1, 2018. MPAA Rating: R. Running time: 84 MIN.
PRODUCTION: A Paramount Pictures release and presentation of a Gerber Pictures production. Producers: Johnny Knoxville, Bill Gerber, Derek Freda. Executive producers: Garrett Grant, Jon Kuyper. Co-producer: Adam Schroeder.
CREW: Director: Tim Kirkby. Screenplay: John Altschluer, Dave Krinsky; story: Johnny Knoxville, Derek Freda, Altschuler, Krinsky, Mike Judge. Camera (color): Michael Snyman. Editors: Matthew Kosinski, Nicholas Monsour. Music: Deke Dickerson, Andrew Feltenstein, John Nau.
WITH: Johnny Knoxville, Chris Pontius, Dan Bakkedahl, Matt Schulze, Eleanor Worthington-Cox, Johnny Pemberton, Brigette Lundy-Paine, Joshua Hoover, Conner McVicker, Eric Manaka.
Johnny Knoxville is an entertainer known for commending tricks, pratfalls, and mischievous high jinks, particularly when they’re especially senseless and not especially handy. His most recent featuring part is in “Activity Point,” which is basically “Wet Hot American Summer” meets “Adventureland” by the method for Knoxville’s mark establishment, “Ass.” The film’s anecdotal late ’70s amusement stop scenery offers a straightforward account and setting, however, the bumbles, tumbles, and tricks are the genuine superstars.
“Activity Point” is coordinated by British TV veteran Tim Kirkby (“Fleabag,” “Veep”) and composed by John Altschuler and Dave Krinksy (Knoxville, Mike Judge, and Derek Freda have story credits as well). Knoxville plays D.C., the proprietor of a rickety demise trap of an amusement stop, Action Point. At the point when contender 7 Parks moves in, and an insidious legal counselor, Knoblach (Dan Bakkedahl), begins influencing moves to assume control Action To point, D.C’s. promoting plan is to “take the brakes off.” He positions his stop as where there are no guidelines, no speed limits and no security precautionary measures. What’s more, lager streams openly for man and mammoth alike.
There’s a spur of the moment father-little girl subplot in which D.C. figures out how to be a superior father to his young little girl Boogie (Eleanor Worthington-Cox) — likewise reflected in the film’s confining gadget, where an elderly D.C. recounts the tale of Action Point to his granddaughter. However, there’s no genuine purpose behind this flashback structure, aside from maybe to enjoy Knoxville’s unusual propensity for really repulsive maturity cosmetics (as found in the “Ass” spinoff film “Awful Grandpa”).
While the father-little girl relationship offers an enthusiastic bend, it’s not precisely the purpose of the motion picture, which is a festival of unadulterated political agitation as the Action Point team perceives how far they can push the breaking points of rash and hazardous. Tricks far exceed giggles — there is nary a composed joke in locate, and the line readings are level, best case scenario and frequently constrained. The 1970s creation outline by Jules Cook and outfit plan by Kate Carin is right on target period particular, however, the tale of “Activity Point” is about as substantive as a Schlitz.
Actually, the period setting is a path for Knoxville and the essayists to enjoy the sort of against PC sentimentality for a more tolerant time when easygoing racial slurs were acknowledged and young ladies could be externalized. At the finish of the film, D.C. indeed even says the “caretaker state” and “helicopter guardians” in an indistinguishable breath from reasons why he would never escape with Action Point today (despite that those are two very surprising things). Wow.
In that sense, “Activity Point,” which Paramount Pictures did not screen for commentators ahead of time of opening day, is an unadulterated refining of the ethos of the Johnny Knoxville group. His work is an advanced exemplification of Russian abstract scholar Mikhail Bakhtin’s hypothesis of the “carnivalesque” — where freed, unpredictable, forbidden conduct runs free and contrary to the specialist.
While Bakhtin envisioned that portrayals of this radical anarchic conduct contained the power for political change, in Knoxville’s reality, the qualities are more retreats and libertarian, displaying a craving to get away to the forested areas with a picked group of rebel companions to do whatever they need. For the majority of the hyper against tyrant vitality that Knoxville and buddies create in “Activity Point,” it’s not coordinated at anything, which renders it unimportant and leaves the film to fail out like a collapsed expand.
Knoxville frames the entire story from the present, showing up in “Bad Grandpa”-style old-age makeup — which surprisingly makes him look more handsome than the haggard, hard-living 47-year-old that he is today — to reminisce about how things were in 1979, back when such places could exist without fear of being held responsible for their customers’ hospital bills (at least six people died at Action Park). “There was a little something called personal responsibility,” D.C. tells his granddaughter, embodying the worst possible example for impressionable children (no wonder the film is rated R).D.C. is seldom seen without a can of Schlitz in his hand, while the most common joke involves a big brown bear that has been trained to pretend it’s drinking beer (a close second is a park mascot in a bear suit who sustains all kinds of abuse). Outfitted in dorky-looking vintage summer duds (tight pants and short shorts), D.C.’s employees are equally unprofessional. If anyone should happen to design “Action Point” action figures down the road, Pontius’ fishnet-clad character will come with a gnarly looking hatchet in hand at all times, while the others are more or less interchangeable.
The main character here is Action Point itself, of course, which convincingly looks as if location scouts managed to find a condemned amusement park and subsequently arranged to destroy it, when in fact, they traveled all the way to South Africa, where they constructed this rickety facsimile of the New Jersey venue from scratch (except for a vintage carousel labeled Schlittenfart, which they paid to have imported, since the name made them laugh). As with the kind of concussion-inducing rides featured in the movie, thrill-seekers ought to know what they’re in for and are strongly encouraged to proceed at their own risk.Source: variety.com, latimes.com, vulture.com