The great ones suffer for their art — Keaton and Lewis, The Stooges and Wanda Sykes.
And nobody suffers more than Johnny Knoxville, still doing enough of his own “Jackass” stunts, at 47, to make you question his durability, his sanity and his insurance rates in “Action Point,” a pratfall farce in the “Bad Grandpa” tradition.
There are so few laughs in this thing that it’d have been a shame had somebody gotten hurt making us laugh at their pain. Whatever promise was in the premise, an old man (Knoxville, real name Philip John Clapp) telling his grandkid about the amusement park he used to run before safety regulations and “The Nanny State” took over, there’s nothing verbal and precious little physical that Knoxville & Co. could find funny in it.
Pee Paw regales his granddaughter, “Princess Bride” fashion, as she’s confined at home, thanks to a busted ankle. He talks of an earlier carefree age, the ’70s, when rides were unsafe, hazardous activities weren’t legally actionable, because “Back then, there was a little thing called ‘personal responsibility.‘”
Pee Paw remembers his rural California (this was largely shot in South Africa) park, Action Point, crushed by competition with corporate, lawyer-backed “7 Parks” (A Six Flags joke?), but glorious in the unsafe rides, less safe “petting zoo” and crazy “stunts” he and his gang of reprobates pulled to get attention and lure patrons.
He had a neighborhood bear that would only hassle him when he was having a Schlitz, a park that served beer, violence, accidents (go-karts, zip lines that snapped, water slides that collapsed) and good times until The Man shut him down.
Sight gags about duct-taped repairs aren’t improved with punch lines, canine copulation is always more crass than funny and the circus of grotesques Knoxville always surrounds himself with are somehow not as amusing when they’re a multi-national cast of mostly unwashed unknowns.
The animal stunts — ostrich rides (by unruly adults), porcupine and gator baiting, yanking a raccoon by its tail — had me sitting all the way through the credits to see if the joke of an “oversight” organization, listed as just “American Humane” here, actually signed off on this.
They did. Even though you can see with your own eyes just what was pulled by this offshore production. I can say with some certainty that some animals “WERE harmed,” or at least badly misused (physically) in the making of “Action Point.” And not just Johnny Knoxville.
Good on you, Paramount. You found a loophole to escape even the most lax oversight organization in animal welfare. Shoot offshore.
Yeah, the drunken bear was funny. The flashback granddad remembering how much trouble he had with his granddaughter’s mom (Eleanor Worthington-Cox) back in the day, produces one laugh.
“Relax Dad, it’s a TAMPON.”
“Don’t you swear at ME, young lady!”
Knoxville’s dye job just makes him look more and more like a Southern fried Frankenstein — no, NOT the mad scientist — as he closes in on 50.
But again, props for the guy for continuing to do so many of his own stunts. Fear stopped figuring into it, many “Jackasses” ago. Unfortunately, so did funny.
MPAA Rating: R for crude sexual content, language, drug use, teen drinking, and brief graphic nudity
Cast: Johnny Knoxville, Eleanor Worthington-Cox, Chris Pontius, Don Bakkedahl, Brigette Lundy-Payne
Credits:Directed by Tim Kirkby script by Dave Krinsky, John Altschuler. A Paramount release.
Running time: 1:25