Directed By Chris Henchy
Starring – Brian Quinn, Joe Gatto, James Murray
The Plot – The story of a humiliating high school mishap from 1992 that sends the Impractical Jokers (Quinn, Gatto, Murray, Sal Vulcano) on the road competing in hidden-camera challenges for the chance to turn back the clock and redeem three of the four Jokers.
Rated PG-13 for suggestive content, adult language, some drug references and brief nudity
“They’re a dad bod version of Jackass” – Sara Cope
– Illustrated friendship. The quartet featured in the film certainly aren’t actors by any stretch of the imagination. During the sequences that involve pushing the flimsy plot, the emotional registry feels forced, and the line-reading of what’s scripted is anything but synthetically natural for the silver screen. However, the chemistry between them is indisputable, and preserved even more apparently throughout the many tortures that they put each other through during the movie’s pranks. Because these are real people with real histories with one another, you receive magnetism in group dynamic’s that you can’t pay for in even a big budget production, and the constant dedication and professionalism paid to the craft of their wacky hijinks is what constantly elevates the material, making for an infectious good time that will overtake you whether you’re a storied fan of the television show or not.
– Never dull. It’s rare during a feature length film where a movie’s entirety leaves me without a single moment of unnecessary downtime, but “Impractical Jokers” is one of the easier sits of the early 2020 movie year because of its persistence in keeping the momentum of the material constantly moving forward. Easily, the film’s weakness for me exists within the first act, where the juggling of what’s real and staged feels creatively conflicting and immediately challenging to the pacing of the film. Thankfully, the second act kicks things into high gear, focusing entirely on prank after prank instead of furthering the movie’s narrative toward building each area simultaneously. If you’re a fan of the show, this will easily persuade you into having a good time, and I appreciate that this production doesn’t try to shelf or gloss over what is in fact their bread and butter that satisfies such a huge fan base.
– Consistently hilarious. I myself have only seen a couple episodes of the Impractical Jokers TV show, and was never won over by the brand of hidden camera sight gags that feels repetitious by 2020 standards. Strangely enough though, that bombing never kept me from enjoying what is prominently displayed throughout the film, and that’s mostly A-grade material that tests the boundaries of the strangers that our group come into contact with. What’s intelligent about the editing and overall camera work is not only that is competently balances the mayhem being covered from every angle and every person not even featured inside of the gag, but it also works cleverly with the narration by the members on the microphone, which in turn pits us the audience in the shoes of the prankster with the mission each time. My favorite skits were easily the one involving a job interview with the Atlanta Hawks, as well as a soldier being saved while stranded at sea. Those ones feel the most daring towards pushing a big screen release, and allows each of them to tackle what should be a serious situation with continued ridiculousness.
– Celebrity cameos. This one I am going to spoil because most of them are featured in the film’s trailer, and even gives away their meaning within their appearance. Paula Abdul is easily the one with the most to do, acting as a plot device to the boys that has them confronting their pasts while recalling on a night of regret. Abdul continues to be a flat actor, but her presence does solidify the mainstream appeal of the show, and even brings forth a musical number with quite an impressive hype-man for the musical diva. In addition to Abdul, we also get an appearance from Jaeden Smith, a staple on season three of the show, when Sal got a tattoo of the young rapper on his thigh. That gag is repeated here, but none the less satisfying because of how age and stress has changed Smith’s appearance, thus giving us a reason to touch face with him, and touch thigh on Sal one more time. My favorite cameo, however, was definitely the bodyguard for Abdul’s scenes, played by Jason Voorhees himself, Kane Hodder. Kane has no talking lines in the movie, nor is he the focus of any scene, but the script is clever enough to involve one of the members calling him a monster, paying homage to the man’s decades of experience in the horror genre. It’s kind of surreal to see Jason Voorhees protecting Paula Abdul.
– Self-aware. This was expected, just not in the way I was thinking. Tonally, this film stays a comedy at all times, as it rightfully should, but even thematically the film’s light-hearted personality offers no shortage of fourth wall breaks where the cast speaks and looks directly towards the audience, never allowing themselves to get lost in the lights and attention that this big screen release is garnering. One such scene involves the group trying to sell the movie to someone else on-screen, and when one of the Jokers is asked to give a review of their movie, he says “It will be one of those 3 star experiences”. This not only proves that they have grounded expectations for the film, but also that they don’t take those kind of things too seriously, a benefit that preserves happiness over ambition.
– No sacrificing. Much of the show’s aesthetic touches remain intact here, albeit with an inkling of improved cameras and sound microphones that allude at a much bigger budget. Why this is important is it keeps familiarity within the hardcore fans of the audience, all the while catering to new ones who can easily be persuaded by a presentation that shouldn’t be this clear on the audio and video, considering it is a basic hidden camera show. On the creative spectrum, there’s nothing that feels too expressive in money burning, except possibly a closing sequence that involves a mind-numbingly brave stunt by one of the crew if I’ve ever seen one. It keeps the cash burning where it rightfully should be, and doesn’t waste its energy harvesting an image in production that it rightfully isn’t.
– Weak plot. You don’t watch an Impractical Jokers film for a compelling cinematic experience, however if you are going to include an unfolding narrative to play against the pranks the group are known for, then it’s my job to grade it. In this regard, the film experiences its biggest setback, garnering a series of scripted scenes that are every bit forgettable as they are hard to grasp logically. For one, a star like Paula Abdul is going to remain tight-lipped in not giving the group enough backstage passes to attend her show? Passes don’t involve seats inside of the concert venue, so does it hurt anything if she includes one more person in the backstage area? Beyond this, the movie knows it’s easily the biggest weakness of the film because it only builds it during the film’s first fifteen minutes, and then never again until the closing moments. It was the one chance the film had in justifying a big screen rendering, and it failed miserably with bottom of the barrel acting and on-the-nose dialogue that gave me frequent groans.
– Inconsistencies. These are mostly within the context of each prank, and not necessarily anything in the script. One aspect that I always had trouble believing with the pranks is that they’re all entirely unscripted, which in turn brings up no shortage of personality trait inconsistencies from the group and their victims which requires disbelief to be suspended if you’re going to buy into them. After nine years of the show, you’re telling me none of these people recognize the Jokers? What about facial blurring? If no one is blurred out, it means the group got approval from them. Doesn’t this soil the meaning of the prank gimmick? Then there’s the certain things that the Jokers can’t say in the heat of the moment. Some make sense from a shaming perspective, but others feel like a plot convenience that better helps shave out the contestants for the Abdul passes. Certainly if the benefit of the conflict is that huge, then these non-offensive, non-graphic lines wouldn’t be a big deal, right?
– Scattershot editing. For a movie as simplistic in the thematic and creative approaches, the pasting of angles together in the context of the scenes are often overthought in an execution that feels as consistently cut as an early 90’s John Wu action flick. There isn’t a single angle anywhere in the movie that exceeds five seconds, a fact that is entirely revealing not only to the group’s inability to act during the scripted scenes, but also towards Henchy’s bare bones approach towards offering even an ounce of style to play into memorability in only his first mainstream directing effort. Too many cuts of complexity in between sequences that should demand long takes to never take away from the group’s dynamic, serves as a distraction more than a benefit, and preserves an entirely different genre of film in its editing than what’s needed.
– Timestamp obviousness. I appreciate a film that can articulately convey the many trends and cultural tastes of a previous decade subtly, but there in lies the problem with “Impractical Jokers”, a film that sets its first ten minutes in the 90’s, during the heart of the grunge era. The song selections in soundtrack are obvious, the cultural references feel like a cliff notes version of what was prominent in the public eye during the time, and the fact that these Jokers play themselves during the twenty-five years previous sequences shouldn’t be lost on anyone attempting to immerse themselves within the believability of the gimmick. If done right, the production can harvest nostalgia in a way that feels naturalistic in the approach that doesn’t steal away the attention of the material in each frame, but this is “The Wedding Singer” levels of shameless nostalgia that is a game of dress up rather than a reflection of the past.
My Grade: 6/10 or C