With his distinctive laugh and penchant for mischief, Johnny Knoxville served as the poster child for the good-natured nihilism of the early noughties. As the frontman of MTV’s Jackass, he stood for nothing more complicated than drinking a couple of beers, getting into trouble and having a good time. The impish enfant terrible had to grow up sometime – this is charted from Jackass: The Movie (2002) into Jackass: 3.5 (2011). If we consider the Jackass trilogy Knoxville’s cinematic Bildungsroman, his latest venture into the world of pratfalls and penis jokes serves as an epilogue – a harkening back to the glory days, with just a hint of the fantastical.
In similar prosthetics to those he donned for Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa, Knoxville opens the film as an elderly version of D.C Carver, regaling his young Gen Z granddaughter with tales from his glory days, when he ran an amusement park in California by the name of Action Point. Flashbacks lend the narrative a similar quality to Big Fish or The Princess Bride, whereby an elderly relative attempts to impart life lessons upon their young kin in the form of a tall tale.
There is something to be said for the yellowing charm of its dustbowl landscape and ramshackle ’70s aesthetic, as shambolic D.C rattles around his decrepit theme park (run largely by teenagers) trying to dream up new lethal attractions to compete with the corporate mega-park threatening to steal his clientele. It’s all a little reactionary, harkening back to some sort of mythical golden age in America, when kids were kids and nobody worried about “political correctness”.
At least Knoxville’s persistent charm steers the vehicle away from completely entering conservative MAGA territory. Audiences may notice the wrinkles around his eyes, or clock the way he doesn’t get up quite as quickly after a stunt anymore (Knoxville has stated he was injured more during the production of Action Point than in any of his previous films), but his commitment to the craft of self-inflicted injury lives on. Going between stupid stunts and soul-searching father-daughter reflections, one wonders if Knoxville – who developed the story, though not the screenplay – is reflecting on his own legacy as much as he is that of the real-life Action Park. Even old Jackass pal Chris Pontius turns up as a thinly-disguised version of himself.
A late scene hints at the unbridled carnage which made the Jackass trilogy’s opening and closing sequences so memorable, but on the whole, the stuntwork fails to quite hit the mark. The jokes are childish and overly familiar, and the story itself a predictable jaunt. It’s a hard film to hate, though, if only for the energy which its leading man brings to everything he does. While Knoxville has dedicated his life to the annihilation of his own body through any means necessary, there’s something strangely melancholy about Action Point. It inadvertently confirms that you too will one day pass on into antiquity, and the only tangible proof of your achievements will be the people you leave behind. To quote Blink-182, whose music was released in parallel to Knoxville’s pièce de résistance, “I guess this is growing up.”