Impractical Jokers: The Movie (2020) Review
FOREVER YOUR BOYS
In an age of comedic “hidden camera” shows and impromptu jokes / gags reality TV video series such as Candid Camera, Jackass, Punk’d, Crank Yankers, the program Impractical Jokers comes up to join the ranks of these shows and (over the years) has garnished quite a following for its hilarious situations that fill their scheduled time of each episode. Premiering back on December 2011 on truTV, the show, centers around the four members (i.e. lifelong friends) of the comedic troupe “The Tenderloins (i.e. Joseph “Joe” Gatto”, James “Murr” Murray, Brian “Q” Quinn, and Salvatore “Sal” Vulcano), with a typical episode unfolds as a episode is a series of competitive games of dare, in which each joker receives either a thumbs up or thumbs down for his performance. At the climax, the joker who tallied the most thumbs down is the loser and is thereby subjected to a “punishment”. The games are contrived scenarios in which one joker is challenged to embarrass himself by engaging with unwitting members of the general public, receiving commands from the other jokers who are orchestrating and surveying the bizarre scenario from behind the scenes with covert recording equipment. The most common premise is “you refuse – you lose.” The games are loosely structured, relying heavily upon improvisation. The show’s comedic themes range from witty dialogue to slapstick routines, with the reactions of both the jokers and the members of the public serving as punchlines. Impractical Jokers has received viewer praise throughout the 2010 decade, with the show’s ninth season (consisting of 26th episodes) set to preemie in 2020 as well as prompting spin-off productions and international versions of the show (due to its popularity) around the world. Now, truTV (with association with Funny or Die) and director Chris Henchy release the wacky and crazy antics of The Tenderloins for a feature length adventure in the movie Impractical Jokers: The Movie. Does the film bring the reality TV show to a new “silver screen” medium or is it just a passable attempt of an extended episode of the show?
In 1994, four close high school friends, Joseph “Joe” Gatto”, James “Murr” Murray, Brian “Q” Quinn, and Salvatore “Sal” Vulcano (playing themselves as teenagers, of course) sneak into a Paul Abdul concert as security guards, and proceed to enjoy in the success of their infiltration and begin to wreak a little mischief once inside, including messing up a live performance of the pop star. Twenty-five years later, they have evolved into the “not-so-professional clowns” that the real world known them as, pranking individuals and drumming up wacky scenarios on their popular reality show. Afterwards, the group, while eating at a Red Lobster, happens to find that Paula Abdul there as well, with the friends fearful of iconic musician threats to ruin their lives. Fortunately, Abdul has forgotten the past transgression and professes that she’s a fan of the show, giving the Impractical Jokers three VIP passes for her show in Miami. The Jokers decide that they’ll go on a road trip and, in the spirit of the show, do hidden camera pranks, and whoever loses can’t go. But who will be the one left out of the four?
THE GOOD / THE BAD
Growing up as part of the “millennial” generation, I’ve seeing the rise and fall of many (and I do mean many) reality TV shows, with some sticking around for years and others fall into forgetful / embarrassing oblivion of TV programming. Of the various series of romance matchmaking, winning money, and renovation makeover productions, hidden camera / impromptu comedy skits have a somewhat appeal to them; projecting wild and bizarre antics to follow on the public viewing, which (in my opinion) have garnished plenty of appeal from a variety of viewers. I always think about Jackass and Punk’d when the first came out as I was in high school and it was quite the “new thing” for many of fellow peers to watch / discuss about in school. Plus, it’s kind of fun to see such strange and absurd situations play out in either pranks or impromptu skits that all of these shows play out in their series.
This brings me back to talking about Impractical Jokers: The Movie, a 2020 feature film that’s based off of the Impractical Jokers reality TV series. I’ll be the first to admit that I didn’t hear about Impractical Jokers or seeing any of their episodes until fairly recently. Yes, it’s true. I vaguely remember hearing about them (circa 2016-17) a few times when they would appear in Universal Studios Orlando (I’m on the passholder page for the amusement park) and people would “freak out” when they saw them (take pics of them or write a post about them on the community page. Still, I never checked out the show. Not because I wasn’t interested in seeing them, but because I never could find the channel that they were on (i.e. truTV). I know that they should reruns of the show on Comedy Central, but I rarely check out the channel that much anymore (don’t watch a lot of cable TV shows that much anymore). Nevertheless, I kept on wanting to try and catch a few episodes of Impractical Joker sometimes…. of which I did prior to seeing this movie. I probably watched about 8 episodes from a variety of scenes (just to check them out). In this regard, I liked the show. Wasn’t groundbreaking (in terms of originality of hidden camera reality shows), but the overall camaraderie between Joe, Murr, Q, and Sal provided to be effective and (I’ll admit) that some of their situation skits were pretty funny. Of course, this comes back to bringing about the movie, which I did remember seeing a listing of the movie at my local theater back in February 2020, but since I didn’t see the show (back then), I didn’t check it out. Naturally, the events of the COVID-19 pandemic happened and the movie theaters closed, studios rescheduled their upcoming releases, and I find myself looking for movie to reviews. So, after a few episodes of the show, I went into Impractical Jokers: The Movie with a general sense of what the movie was gonna be as I took a chance and rented it one night (via Vudu). What did I think of it? Well, it was okay. While the flavor and intent are there, Impractical Jokers: The Movie just feels like an elongated episode of the popular show that lacks height of a feature film or even warrants a cinematic presentation. In short, the project is better on the small screen, not the big screen.
Impractical Jokers: The Movie is directed by Chris Henchy, whose previous works include as a producer / writer projects like Entourage, The Other Guys, and I’m with Her. As in the show, the friendly rivalry that each of them shares for each other is the highlight for most of the feature as well as the various comedic situations that the foursome find themselves trying to pull off in pranking each other. It definitely works in the reality show and does so again in this movie; playing to the overall appeal and likeability from the show to play a paramount importance on the film. In this regard, Henchy succeeds in giving its viewers (and possibly Joker guys) a chance to play to their strengths and delivering another comedic installment for everyone to encounter. This also extends to the overall “look” of the movie, which is somewhat typical for a reality TV show. Nothing is dollied up or glamorous, which certainly helps the “real world” aspect of translating the series into a feature film framing. So, in a nutshell, the technical presentation of the film meets the industry standards of these projects and I really can’t comment much about it. That being said, the film does feature a good selection of songs that play in the movie.
However, the movie does struggle and draws criticism within its premise and context framing as an intent as a motion picture endeavor. What do I mean? Well, for better or worse, Impractical Jokers: The Movie just simply feels like unnecessary as a feature film. Naturally, like the show, the overall pranks and comedic skits are the best part of the movie, but the actual framework of the narrative is perhaps the weakest element. The film’s script was penned by the Impractical Jokers themselves along with Henchy, so they certainly play to their strengths when it comes to witty dialogue. That being said, the story of the movie is incredibly hollow, thin, and flimsy, with the basic premise of a road trip to see Paula Abdul being the main crux that drives the four Jokers throughout the movie. However, the narrative immediately takes a back seat as the film as a great bulk of the feature focuses on the Jokers doing what they do best…. pranking unsuspected people and placing themselves in humorous situations. Thus, this brings up the question as to why the movie even has a story as the project should’ve been more along the lines of the Jackass movies (more elaborate / bigger pranks).
Speaking to that, the movie also struggles to “go big” or “scale” the scenarios that the Jokers prank individuals on. Yes, some are funny (a scene involving Q giving a speech at a social media conference is pretty funny), but most of the comedy sketches and punchline setups never feel larger-than-life; something I was expecting from the group to do in the movie. It just kind of feels like the “same old, same old” jokes and gags from the show, which leaves the theatrical motion picture platform underutilized and never really “going big” in its translation. Basically, it just felt like I was watching an episode of the show…. just a little bit longer than usually. Even some of the comedy bits don’t really feel heightened as some of them works, while others times they don’t. It’s a sort of “hit or miss” in landing the jokes and gags throughout. In addition, the actual “movie aspects” of the feature / story feel incredibly forced and corny. Yes, I know that I wasn’t expecting anything grand or anything truly imaginative in terms of narration or storytelling, but it just seems quite bland, flat, and downright cringeworthy when the feature cuts away to these moments. An example of this are several multiple scenes that involving Murr throwing special gatherings in his rooms on the road trip. The intent setup for a punchline is there, but is never fully addressed later on and feels a bit clunky. In truth, I think the movie would’ve been better if the Jokers did more of an original comedy movie idea; something that I was akin to what Broken Lizard did with their projects (i.e. Super Troopers, Super Troopers 2, Beerfest, etc.). That not being the case, Impractical Jokers: The Movie comes up short in what it wants to achieve by never truly warranting a theatrical feature nor scaling the comedy angst for the big screen, which is a missed opportunity in my book.
Looking beyond those criticisms, the Impractical Jokers TV series works because of the overall close blond friendship that Jo, Murr, Q, and Sal share with each other. This perhaps is the one thing that redeems the movie as the tightly knit comradery that “The Tenderloins” have is still very much genuine, fun, and easily likeable throughout the film’s runtime of 92 minutes. Everyone has their personal favorite of the group as mine would be Sal (I think he’s the funniest) and the movie certainly gives each one to shine throughout the film’s duration; most of which involving situation jokes and gags for them to go through. As I said, it ultimately works to their overall likeability and the movie clears does a good job in continuing their natural and genuine comedy routines. I just wish that the movie had more of an original idea for the Jokers to play around with; seeing them in a different character role and theatrical comedy narrative than just the standard “Impractical Jokers” schtick.
Additionally, just like how the show has several cameo-like appearance of celebs, Impractical Jokers: The Movie has a few famous talents that appear in various small parts in the film (mostly playing themselves). Of course, iconic popstar singer Paula Abdul is in it and, while its nothing original or groundbreaking) turns a small / fun performance in the film. There are a few others, but I won’t spoil it.
The Jokers head to the big screen and on a road trip of mischief, pranks, and laughs in the movie Impractical Jokers: The Movie. Director Chris Henchy sophomore directorial feature projects takes the iconic / popular friends of The Tenderloins (Impractical Jokers) gang and sets them in on a wacky misadventure of jokes, gags, and bizarre situations that truly does speak to the spirt of the beloved reality show. While intent is there and the overall enjoyment of watching the foursome continue interact with each other, the movie never really rises to challenge of its big-screen platform with its thinly writing narrative, unused potential of scaling its pranks, and feeling unwarranted as a feature presentation. Personally, it was an okay movie. Sure, the movie did have its moments (within its comedy bits) and the primary four Jokers are still fun to watch and interact with each other, but the movie just feels like extended episode of the show (a sort of lost episode) and probably would’ve been better as a TV movie of some kind (in my opinion). Thus, my recommendation for this movie is possible “Rent It” for fans of the show as well as a “Skip It” for everyone else. Basically, just watch a few episodes reality show instead and simply wait for this movie to come to TV sometime in the near future. In the end, Impractical Jokers: The Movie is a missed opportunity; never really sticking its landing on the big screen and gets lost in translation from small screen arena.
2.7 Out of 5 (Rent It / Skip It)
Released On: February 28th, 2020
Reviewed On: April 21st, 2020
Impractical Jokers: The Movie is 92 minutes long and is rated PG-13 for suggestive content, language, some drug references, and brief nudity