Thursday 30 August 2018

"Action Point" (Guardian 31/08/18)

Action Point **
Dir: Tim Kirkby. With: Johnny Knoxville, Dan Bakkedahl, Chris Pontius, Eleanor Worthington-Cox. 85 mins. Cert: 15

Still no sign of that Adventureland sequel, but this week brings us a puzzling film in which 47-year-old Johnny Knoxville, in the guise of a renegade theme-park operator, gets to rag on millennials for their observance of basic health-and-safety codes. Cinema, like life, is rarely fair. If Knoxville’s Jackass movies were, for better and frequently worse, everything they set out to be, Action Point looks very much like the kind of PG-13 rated compromise – gooey teen coming-of-ager, with stunts attached – which studio Paramount might have imposed on those doofi had then-hot producer-director Spike Jonze not had their back. Watching it is like travelling through a wormhole to a slightly crummier version of 2004.

The sense of a fading star looking over a repeatedly dislocated shoulder is underlined by the new film’s framing. Bookends find Knoxville, in Bad Grandpa latex, reminiscing with a grandchild about the late Seventies heyday in which his D.C. transformed the fortunes of a beat-up backwoods attraction by taking the speed limiters off the rides. The upshot is an erratic run of skits, assembled with neither rhyme nor reason, in which Knoxville and loyal second Chris Pontius are knocked over, or have live squirrels introduced to their nethers, or chuckle at the sight of copulating dogs. Some of these – like an incident involving a trebuchet – are just blunt enough to force out a fleeting snicker; most yield frowns or uneasy grimaces.

The surprise is that such a reactionary artefact should be credited to a director best associated with progressive British comedy. Tim Kirkby (Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle, Fleabag) appears to have chiefly asserted himself by getting Sham 69 and The Undertones onto the soundtrack, thereby scattering traces of punk attitude amid the product placement and flagrantly insincere father-daughter bonding. Elsewhere, evidence suggests he could only go along with some questionable executive-level decisions, and then the ageing yahoos making mildly merry while trashing his set. Not good for much, all told, but there may be a lesson in here about the extent to which rowdy rabbles can ever be successfully appeased.

Action Point opens in selected cinemas from tomorrow.

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