Directed By Seth Porges and Chris Charles Scott III
Starring – Mary Pilon, Jason Scott, Jim DeSaye
The Plot – A documentary that focuses on a dangerously legendary water park and its slew of injuries and crimes along with child safety concerns.
The film is currently not rated
– Immersive experience. This is seen throughout the documentary’s presentation, which offers a healthy combination of on-ground home movie footage and park advertisements simultaneously throughout the picture. What’s impressive about the former is the abundance of footage captured inside of the park that visually conveys each topic and experience that each of the guests take us through orally. It really does feel like cameras were rolling at all times for every single guest while inside of the park, and gives the storytelling a vibrant sense of reality when you come to understand that the craziness that is being discussed and dissected is in fact enriched in reality. It grants access to anyone like myself who wasn’t fortunate or unfortunate enough to partake in its madness, and is edited superbly enough to accentuate the many beats of the topics contained that breeze through like a collection of friends detailing their memories.
– Entrancing musical score. I have always been a fan of the Vaporwave subgenre of music, which with its collection of dreamy synths and electronic percussions audibly transport us back to the spirit of the late 80’s and early 90’s sense of time. So it’s with delightful pleasure that I gush about the film’s rhythmic musical score, which often works so coherently with a place in time that now feels centuries away morally and culturally from where we now sit. Emotionally, the subgenre takes us through a rollercoaster of feelings and sentimentalities that can audibly allude to the depth of incidents that the park experienced during its prime. When the discussion is informative or introductory, the keys of the keyboard prime through a fluffy and dreamer’s-like sedative, but can transform quickly to sadness with an ominous enveloping the audibly narrates the many tragedies that the park escaped consequence free from. It’s one of my personal favorite scores of the year, and definitely my favorite all time in a documentary, and cements this feeling of complete professionalism from every angle of production that those behind the scene mastered authentically.
– Detailed discussions. The level of information that these two directors take us through in 90 minutes is remarkable enough, but when you couple that with purposeful overhead narration meant to make these transitions as seamless as a conventional conversation, you start to truly appreciate the level of attention that went into fully telling the park’s story. Each attraction inside of the park receives ample time and argument to convey why it was the most dangerous for one of these guests, complete with background on the innovation of said attraction. This is brought to light with constructive blueprints to show that very little was lost in translation since inception. In addition to this, the movie’s unrated approach allows these conversations to truly articulate the level of anger or lunacy bottled up from such an experience, and combining the commentary from personal experiences to play into the perception illustrated from the mainstream media, who were often lied or fabricated to.
– Level of guests. This impressed me, particularly, because the combination of blue collar workers and familiar celebrities really cemented the level of infamy attained from the park’s chaos that everybody had to have a piece of. My personal favorite being the grainy MTV footage hosted by Riki Rachtman, who spent a day documenting all of the park’s features. Rachtman’s hilarious commentary when bouncing off all of the immature guests is funny enough, but the true value is when he reveals two special guests in the form of Alice In Chains frontmen Layne Staley and Jerry Cantrell to the forefront of the park to discuss their experiences. From there, the commentary of the park’s former workers combined with the negativity from the park’s greatest skeptics conjures up a moral debate that lays out all of the facts for the viewer at home, without influencing them one way or another. It makes for an in-depth analysis that never sacrifices its entertainment factor for memorial exposition, and makes this a more rounded approach towards Action Park than the 2018 feature film, “Action Point”.
– Tonally expansive. Just when you think “Class Action Park” is one thing, it reverts and becomes something completely different. This is seen through the eyes of its tonal spontaneity, which can switch at the drop of a hat with no telegraphed indication. When the film captures the sheer lunacy of the concepts and worker mentalities, it’s a full-blown comedy, existing somewhere between satirical and raunchy that detailed the mentality behind the 80’s and 90’s generation of teenagers during the park’s prime. Where the movie takes a dramatic turn is when the consequences catch up to the thrill-seeking park venturists, including one case where a mother’s grief captures the attention and empathy of the story’s focus. It proves that the good times attained eventually led to bad times suffered, and makes so much of “Class Action Park” a cautionary tale that proves that for every temporary action, there’s a permanent reaction.
– Artistic flare. While accommodating these intense discussions and behind the scenes experiences, the film also includes some colorfully comedic animated sequences meant to map out the park’s geographical proximity, and it’s many attractions along the way. This works exceptionally well because so much of this park feels like a cartoon to begin with, and when you couple that with bright, spirited animation that plays so magnetically with what’s being discussed, it makes for an ambitious presentation that vividly fills in the gaps of the occasional story beats that fall in between the cracks. The animation itself is light, fluffy, and full of expression in its characterization. Its demand for inclusion also remains patiently deposited throughout the progression of the film, allowing it to artistically shine without demeaning its other visual accomplishments.
– Outline of a visionary. Through the park’s inception, to its untimely demise, the story of creator Gene Vulvihill is one of the more fascinating stories of ascension and decent that this generation has to offer. It begins with his rise to money by cheating his way through Wall Street, culminating in a series of schemes that led to his career removal. From there, his idea to create an amusement park free from safety measures and watchful eyes made him a renegade, and led to a series of illegal conceptions that eventually began and ended with a Cayman Islands insurance company just to keep the park’s doors open. Vulvihill was not a man of refined principles, a sentiment made even more apparent by the film’s many guest speakers, who paint him as this careless shadow figure who lived and died by the inspiration of the almighty dollar. He’s a villain and a con man, but most especially a genius for how he fully comprehended his generational youths and what they craved, and amassed a fortune in riches with a series of business decisions that is likely to never be repeated again.
– Simplistic message. Despite its many themes and complex narratives, the movie’s stern summary is one of brunt simplicity, in that greed is the ultimate motivator. This isn’t just seen through Vulvihill, who was the architect of everything that ensued, but also in the state of New Jersey’s governmental offices for allowing matters to continue as long as they did. I don’t want to spoil much here, because the level of corruption is astounding, so instead I will say Vulvihill exposed a massive loophole in the way he ran business, and exploited it to its fullest potential. This makes “Class Action Park” more than just an insightful documentary into the mind of a madman and his respective park, but one of a dissection of an entire generation, both in youth and in politics, that lived fast and crashed hard as a result. It reminds us how far we’ve come, for better or worse, and proves that the simple quality of life that people once alluded to provided more darkness for the leaches to hide in.
– Unnecessary additives. There are the occasional moments when the film’s visual presentation becomes a big disjointed, and calls on the use of other movie footage to elaborate on its focal point. This is seen through the lens of “The Wolf of Wall Street” or “Wall Street” when the film is discussing the stock market, “Stand By Me” when discussing adventurous thrill-seeking kids, and a hoard of early 90’s movies when discussing Generation X. The point of this measure is easily comprehended, ideally to hit on a series of story notes with pop culture visualization that audiences feel familiar with, but in the grand scheme of things it just feels like HBOGO is showing off their massive library in a way that this particular property doesn’t necessarily need. I don’t require visual elaboration on universal themes like the stock market, and would rather the movie keep their creative and productive focuses towards the talking points inside of the park that could use all of 90 minutes without distraction.
– Distinct audience. If you’re someone like me who has studied up on the infamous background of the dangerous Action Park, this documentary will offer very little new or compelling to you in a way that peels back the layers and exposes the controversies behind the scenes. There is a brief discussion on the many teenage employees and their overriding horniness that motivated every decision, but the darkest stuff is elaborated at in secrecy form, underscoring the dramatic tension from this world within the world that was created by its lenient founder. That’s not to say that the movie shouldn’t still be seen. Primarily, the direction and production of the movie are stellar in capturing the distinct vision of the neon generation. It’s just that this movie will appeal to newfound audiences of the park more than the experienced ones, and only stand as a coffee table discussion instead of the highly controversial one it promises and only briefly delivers on.
My Grade: 8/10 or B+