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The pointless action of ‘Action Point’

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I’ve always had an affinity for watching people get hurt in ridiculous ways. It’s the teenaged boy in me; slapstick, physical humor has always been a favorite of mine. It’s why I have a soft spot for Johnny Knoxville and “Jackass.” The sheer abandon with which those degenerates approached their work (such as it was) … admirable, really.

But such degeneracy is a young man’s game. Truly, in the end, time leaves no man’s balls unkicked.

This brings us to “Action Point,” a film about which I held the exact right degree of low expectations, yet was disappointed nevertheless. It’s a lazy, largely unfunny comedy that spastically flails about and fails to make any real impact, despite an enthusiastic performance by Knoxville (including a couple of stunts sure to delight his longtime fans).

Knoxville plays D.C., a hard-drinking California amusement park owner in the early 1980s. The park – named Action Point – is largely self-built by D.C. himself; he runs it with the help of his brother Benny (longtime Knoxville collaborator Chris Pontius) and a ragtag group of kids so interchangeable that we really needn’t bother going through their names.

One summer, while his daughter Boogie (Eleanor Worthington-Cox, TV’s “Britannia”) is visiting, D.C. finds himself confronted with the realities of the success of the nearby corporate theme park. He’s also got an unsavory real estate guy named Knoblach (Dan Bakkedahl, TV’s “Life in Pieces”) breathing down his neck, trying to get his hands on the land upon which Action Point stands.

D.C. comes up with a solution – to amp up the already-high levels of recklessness to the nth degree. The plan is to make the park more exciting and more dangerous, to give young people the thrills they want without the pesky hassle of supervision or really safety of any kind.

Meanwhile, the relationship between Boogie and D.C. becomes strained as she starts to wonder who he loves more – her or Action Point.

Sprinkled throughout are, of course, numerous dangerous stunts executed by Knoxville with the intent of hurting himself as graphically as possible. He falls from great heights and gets launched by a trebuchet and takes a firehouse blast to the groin – you know, the usual.

“Action Point” is a story within a story; the film’s framing device involves a now-aged D.C. telling the tale of Action Point to his granddaughter (though this seems to exist mostly as an excuse to drop Knoxville-in-grandpa-makeup on his head a couple of times).

It pains me to say this, but I didn’t derive as much joy from Knoxville’s pain as I would have expected. Obviously, I’m not expecting great cinema from “Action Point,” but even as an audience member inclined toward generosity, I was underwhelmed by what I actually got from the film.

The biggest issue was simple: this movie is boring. Legitimately dull, which is remarkable to say about a Johnny Knoxville production; like them or hate them, you can’t deny that his antics are boring. And yet here we are. The entire stitched-together narrative exists solely to get us to these big stunts and sight gags, but the payoff just isn’t there.

That’s not to say the bits aren’t funny. They are. But in this movie, they exist in a kind of vacuum. They have little to do with the advancement of the story; they just periodically pop up because we can only be expected to go so long between bouts of Knoxville punishment.

There’s actually some potential in this concept, but when you’re talking about two screenwriters and a total of five “story by” credits, you’re squarely in “too many cooks” territory. Again – this isn’t a movie that requires an intricate narrative, but there should at least be characters and/or stakes in which we can feel some degree of investment.

It doesn’t help that as a leading man, Knoxville is great at taking shots to the groin. He just doesn’t have a ton of presence when he’s not getting thrown around; asking him to carry a scene just by acting rarely pays off. He’s not without talent, but he can’t be the foundation of your storytelling. He doesn’t have the charisma to make it work.

As for the supporting cast … yeah. As a group, they make even less of an impression than Knoxville does. Bakkedahl does all right – this is the kind of part he can do in his sleep – but the rest don’t make much of an impression. It’s not for lack of enthusiasm – they all seem game for anything – but they just don’t seem to be able to do much with the material. Hell, the best supporting performance in the entire movie might be the drunk bear who’s subject to the story’s best running gag.

“Action Point” isn’t a good movie. That’s no surprise; only a fool would expect it to be. But it wasn’t an ENTERTAINING movie, and that is a bit surprising. Knoxville definitely falls flat – and not in the manner we’ve come to expect.

[1 out of 5]

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