A Jackass movie by any other name would smell just as sweet – even when it comes out rancid. Action Point brings Johnny Knoxville and his anarchic crew of self-abusers back to the screen in a movie that keeps selling syrupy when we want mad-dog crazy. It’s still R-rated and, yes, and you do get to see Knoxville get hurled into the broad side of a barn while his old buddy Chris Pontius finds his balls being used as a snack for a squirrel. Good times. But someone thought this comedy needed to graft on a plot ladled with gooey sentiment to lure in the rubes. WTF!
Here’s the drill: It’s a true story. Kind of. Maybe. Long ago (the 1970s), in a galaxy far, far away (Vernon, New Jersey), a dude named D.C. (Knoxville) owned and operated an amusement park that allowed – hell, encouraged – its hard-drinking, mostly underaged visitors to risk their lives on its shamelessly unsafe thrill rides. Personal injury hazards forced the place to shutter in 1979. But, doggone it, those were the days! The present-day D.C. – played by Knoxville in Bad Grandpa-ish old-age makeup – reminisces bout the place to his granddaughter.
Cue the flashbacks. There’s D.C. fighting off bankruptcy and Knoblach (Dan Bakkedahl), a real-estate developer who wants his property. Worse, a new corporate park has opened nearby. And wouldn’t you know it, D.C.’s 14-year-old daughter, Boogie (Eleanor Worthington-Cox), needs looking after. That’s a shitload of plot for what could simply be a gonzo, go-for-broke caper, and screenwriters John Altschuler and Dave Krinsky pile it on without mercy. Director Tim Kirkby, a TV workhouse with Veep and Brooklyn Nine-Nine episodes on his resume, tries to mesh all this filler into a coherent story.
My question: Why bother? We’re here for the wild, gonzo pranks that made Jackass, on MTV and in movies, a name you respect for having no respect for anything. Remembering Knoxville, now 47, shoving a toy car up his ass can bring tears of joy. The defiant soul of those unforgettable pranks made performance art out of body horror.
There’s none of that in Action Point, a limp-dick movie that yearns to be cutesy, to make us grin at the sight of a drunken bear or sniffle at the real love D.C. feels for his daughter. A few primo bits sneak through, like a bit involving a water slide and a sequence with a petting zoo featuring a porcupine and a gator. But mostly we’re watching the bawdy life being drained out of a once subversive franchise. Action Point is the first Jackass-related movie to play it safe. Now that is truly painful.