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There was once a time when stunt-minded actors putting their lives in danger in the name of some low-brow, but extremely enjoyable comedy, was a bankable prospect. No one knows that better than Paramount and Johnny Knoxville, as their Jackass franchise was a juggernaut of such proportions on both television and cinema. But that era waned, and the franchise went away, casting doubt on it ever coming back. Not only has Action Point proved that the spirit of Jackass is alive and well, but it's also a welcome respite from the box office routine we've seen play out over the past couple of months.
DC (Johnny Knoxville) has two things he loves in life: his daughter (Eleanor Worthington Cox), and his theme park, Action Point. Playing life fast and loose in both respects, he oversees a motley crew of rebels, losers, and burnouts that help keep the park operating in what passes as tip-top shape. But in one eventful summer, everything is on the line, as his daughter's entering adolescence, and a local land developer (Dan Bakkedahl) is looking to shut him down for good.
Going into Action Point, I kept two facts clearly in mind: the movie was looking to be Jackass with a loosely drawn plot, and that said plot was aiming for the same sort of laughs that comedies of the 1980s like Meatballs and Caddyshack generated back in their hey-day. In both categories, it's safe to say that the film succeeds, as its humor is only outdone by the personally dangerous stunts that Johnny Knoxville and his "dumb little buddies" were once known for in the early Aughts. And if you're wondering if Knoxville's playing it safer this time around, the outtakes that run throughout the end credits show that he's just as extreme now as he was back in the day.
Surprisingly enough, Knoxville's acting chops are given a bit of exercise, in-between stunts involving various woodland creatures, hig- powered water hoses, and theme park attractions that'd never find themselves in a modern context. To be fair though, the film's actual plot doesn't require a lot of deep digging, as the almost hour and a half that Action Point runs is a fast paced narrative that fills in the cracks between dangerous antics. That being said, when reflected upon, the more personal thread of the film's story holds up, with Knoxville's chemistry with his on-screen daughter and granddaughter selling that part of the film in spades.
While it's intensely enjoyable, Action Point can come off as feeling slight to some who aren't as well versed in both the joys of Jackass or the history of the actual New Jersey theme park that Action Point's fictional thrill rides are drawn from. That knowledge, while definitely helping to tinge the story with an extra layer of nostalgia, isn't required to enjoy this throwback to both R-rated 1980's comedies. What remains is a film that's both reminiscent of those classic, and not so classic, laugh riots that you'd watch with your parents, and the more lax / extreme era of theme parks that eventually gave way to the more regulated and sharply advertised world that medium lives in.
It's not exactly something I'd call a classic in the same vein as the films it's trying to mimic, but Action Point a highly enjoyable film that deserves the attention of audiences burned out on massive franchise fare. The R-rating is definitely earned, but just barely, so it's not a bad film to take your teens to if they're looking for some edgy fun. Consider it a gateway movie to help expose your kids to your favorite entries in the genre, as it takes the comedy of that by-gone era and updates it to today's standards without losing the laughs. Much like the rides that inspired it, Action Point is a fast and funny thrill ride without brakes.