I heard Johnny Knoxville say during an interview that throughout his entire career, no production has bruised, battered, or sent him to the hospital more times than Action Point. That, right there, is saying something.
For those who’ve grown up watching Knoxville physically disassemble himself with old pals Steve-O and Bam Margera on the Jackass TV show or any of its subsequent movies know that such a statement, if true, would suggest quite an entertaining (not to mention painful) display. After all, we did see a motorbike crush his…well…most “private” of areas.
Though I’m no doctor, and am not ashamed to admit I would be terrified to do any of the things I saw on the screen, I certainly doubt that Action Point, Knoxville’s first major narrative-stunt hybrid since Bad Grandpa, hurt the industry’s most entertaining maniac as much as he let on. It does look like it hurt a lot, though.
I don’t mean to scrutinize Knoxville’s tolerance for pain – which is surely higher than mine – or suggest that flying through the walls of a wooden barn was a pleasant experience for him. But while Bad Grandpa cozied up in and defiled an environment full of real people to boost its appeal, Action Point is composed entirely of characters interacting in an entirely fictional setting. Watching it, while it’s clear that Knoxville is the one getting hit, kicked, thrashed, and pummeled, the spontaneity of his tricks is diminished by its timing in a story that’s of neither great importance, nor concern. Since when did there need to be context to enjoy watching someone get hit in the balls?
Said context revolves around an old and decrepit man named D.C. (Knoxville), who tells his granddaughter the story of his glory days as the head honcho of Action Point, an amusement park – if you could call it that – fit for the insanely foolish. It’s rundown and ugly, the kind of place where duct tape would suffice for most serious mechanical malfunctions. Incompetent teenagers and a whack job second-in-command (Jackass veteran Chris Pontius) make up the park staff’s hierarchy, and the next door neighbor is an alcoholic bear.
D.C. is not much better than the bear, either – there’s hardly a time where a can of California’s cheapest is not in his hand – even when his daughter Boogie (Eleanor Worthington-Cox) comes from New York to spend the summer with him. She seems to have adapted to enjoy her father’s antics, and though she has more intentions for her time with him other than witnessing a plethora of nonsense, it’s put on hold once Action Point faces the business and financial risks any dangerous and poorly operated establishment would encounter: competitors, loans, audits, etc.
You’d think that any amusement park with a loop-de-loop water slide would be torn to shreds by lawsuits – in fact, Action Park, the theme park this film is loosely based on and which saw six of its customers killed on different attractions, was known as “Class Action Park.” However, D.C. makes his philosophy known early on, and it’s probably the closest the film gets to a theme. It also seems like one that Knoxville himself abides by, requiring that people take responsibility for their own actions and letting them take complete control over how much fun they’d like to have (i.e. how much pain they’d like to endure). The folks who come to Action Point love it for that reason.
Many of the stunts throughout the film occur while the team tries to figure out ways to “expand” on their brand by creating a no-holds-barred park of terror. Ideas for new rides are drawn out in little flip books, and built with the same level of inefficiency. Knoxville amusingly shows us how they’re supposed to operate by trying them out for himself. But perhaps the most horrific concepts they come up with is for the kid’s space which, when completed, looks as if it’d spawned directly from an overprotective parent’s twilight zone.
Director Tim Kirkby and screenwriters John Altschuler and Dave Krinsky make the majority of Knoxville’s time away from these daring schemes focused on his relationship, or lack thereof, with Boogie. However, theirs is a relationship of hardly any significance, drawing little more emotional weight than any other troubled father-daughter duo would. I will say that Action Point proves that while extreme physical comedy can be mixed with a narrative, an equal distribution is vital. Nobody was asking for a story with only a couple of stunts here and there.
Everyone behind this film should have known what would make their audiences laugh, and had a better idea of how to exploit it. Knoxville, over the years, has created that formula for them. Advertised, the theme park looks as if it’s going to be some kind of Jackass skate park with all kinds of set ups for disastrous falls and blunders. It was quite disappointing, however, when the story would move away from this gold mine of a setting.
Despite this, Knoxville is a riot when he’s doing what he is does best. Though he’s no Brando, there is something very endearing about Johnny Knoxville and his willingness to sacrifice his body for our amusement. That’s surely what’s carried him all these years. Or at least, I’d like to think it is. If not, he’s got the perverted nature of audiences’ humor alone to thank for his paycheck, much of which I imagine goes right to his insurance bill.