[Screen It]


(2018) (Johnny Knoxville, Chris Pontius) (R)

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Comedy: To compete with a new, state-of-the-art amusement park opening nearby, a daredevil theme park operator devises a collection of unsafe, irresponsible thrill rides.
D.C. (JOHNNY KNOXVILLE) is an elderly man in 2018 who enjoys spending time with his granddaughter and telling her stories about the good old days when he owned and operated an amusement park. Known as Action Point, the park featured low-tech rides that had little in the way of safeties or restraints -- a stark contrast to the corporate-owned 7 Parks theme park that opened in 1979 and became his direct competition.

Back in the summer of '79, the divorced D.C. was hosting his estranged daughter Boogie (ELEANOR WORTHINGTON-COX) for the season while trying to keep Action Point in business. He had a lot of help, including his best friend Benny (CHRIS PONTIUS), his accountant Rodney (ERIC MANAKA), and numerous eccentric park employees (BRIGETTE LUNDY-PAINE, MICHAEL EVERSON, JOHNNY PEMBERTON, and CONNER McVICKER).

But he also had an adversary in local financier Knoblach (DAN BAKKEDAHL) and his bully son, Travis (MATTHEW PETERSON), who work for the rival theme park and want only for D.C. to fail so they can buy up his land for expansion. The film tells the tale of how D.C., Boogie, and the various Action Point employees pulled out all the stops that summer to try and save their beloved park.

OUR TAKE: 3 out of 10
Our reviewing policy for films that aren't shown in advance to critics is that we'll only provide a paragraph or two about the film's artistic merits or, more accurately, lack thereof. After all, life is too short to spend any more effort than that on a movie that even the releasing studio knows isn't any good (which is why they hid it from reviewers before its release).

Ah, the good old days when "Jackass" humor was dangerous and politically incorrect and ... well, actually funny. It seems a long time ago now. So much has happened. And "Jackass" star Johnny Knoxville knows it, crafting a scripted film here in "Action Point" that is set in 1979 and riffs on an Americana culture that used to delight in kids riding in the back of open-air pickup trucks, lots of canned beer drinking, and theme parks in which you really did feel like you were taking your life into your own hands.

But he and the writers of this new film are not savvy enough to turn this into a true culture clash comedy or a biting social commentary of our more tight times with helicopter parents, rampant political correctness, and corporate-owned theme parks that are all about control and marketing. Actually, the problem with "Action Point" is it's just not that funny.

Knoxville stars as D.C., the owner-operator of the Action Point theme park circa 1979 where none of the rides have pesky little things like seatbelts, brakes, and safety inspections. This could have been a fun idea for a comedy. But instead the slapstick gags are repetitive, and the new cast of characters surrounding Knoxville -- save for "Jackass" holdover Chris Pontius -- aren't endearing enough for us to enjoy their pain and pratfalls.

"Action Point" is going for a sort of "Meatballs" vibe here. But this kind of wistful summer comedy-drama has already been done better twice in the last decade in the form of "Adventureland" and "The Way, Way Back." The little-seen "Ping Pong Summer" set in Ocean City, Md., circa the mid-1980s also went for what Knoxville and Co. were going for here, too, and succeeded much better.

He and his team of writers and hangers-on do try and give the film a bit of depth as well with a father-daughter subplot. And I liked Eleanor Worthington-Cox as D.C.'s level-headed 14-year-old. She has a definite Abigail Breslin quality to her. But the film is a weird mix of actual actors and people who don't appear to have ever been on a movie set or had a camera recording them either. It's very spotty stuff, especially the humor. I give it a 3 out of 10. (T. Durgin)

Reviewed June 1, 2018 / Posted June 1, 2018

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