Missing the Point

Aesthetically and spiritually, Action Point harkens back to 80s summer-camp comedies that have largely gone out of production, if not style nor fashion, recently.

The crippling problem with this 21st century update: these sorts of whimsical tales are rooted in characters, mostly young, with whom you’d want to spend an escapist summer away. It’s damn near impossible to pleasurably escape with unlikable contrivances of an uninspired page puppeteer; there’s just no heart anywhere onscreen.

Defenders of Johnny Knoxville’s oeuvre — I count myself as one, within reason, with Action Point being outside of that reason — would defend his work here by claiming it’s aspirations are not to Stand By Me. Rather, the intentionally-hokey premise is simply a neat clothe-hanger on which to hang the Jackass crew’s signature hijinks. I usually find Knoxville’s high-wire-over-hell act amusing, and combining it with a narrative could be an interesting genre mashup.

Unfortunately, neither half of these genres hold their weight. The cardboard characters need the physical antics to be even remotely worth watching, and the extremity of the stunts are hamstrung by the pedestrian dictates of the characters’ shallow arcs. And generating a story that organically leads to these spectacles relies on off-putting plot turns. Plus, stunts that make sense within a comprehensible narrative can’t be as thrillingly creative as in Jackass’ bizarro world. Lacking the ingenuity of Jackass, and without sufficiently-diverting fiction to compensate, Action Point is basically a scripted stunt, stunting its ability to sustain feature-length entertainment.

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