In the spirit of full disclosure, let me say, up front, that I had never seen an episode of the television version of Impractical Jokers before seeing this movie version, despite the prompting of a good friend who loves the show. So, I went to see this with only a rough idea of what I was getting into. As a reality check, following the screening, I tracked down one of the series episodes as a point of reference. Having said all that, here’s my take.
Fans know that the Impractical Jokers are four wild and crazy buddies from New Jersey who dreamed up a comedy premise in which three of them concoct something utterly ridiculous for the fourth guy to do (out in public) while being coached and videotaped. This short-straw, fourth guy wears a hidden earphone and receives running instructions about what to do and say, however insane, while the other three buddies goad him on and laugh uncontrollably. That’s pretty much it.
Not to say that this can’t be funny. A legion of fans over seven seasons would attest to that. It’s an episodic format with these buddies rotating their roles in various locations doing whatever their twisted minds can come up with. It’s all meant to be humiliating and embarrassing and it begs the old question: with friends like this, who needs enemies?
It’s edgy humor. I get it. And it’s not for everyone. Like people like me, for instance. And I get that, too. Comedy is subjective and a matter of taste. For the record, I am a fan of tasteless comedy occasionally. Borat made me laugh until tears where streaming from my eyes.
I was a little puzzled about what was going on in Impractical Jokers: The Movie. In adapting the comedy shtick from the small screen to the big screen, the boys added a pretty conventional road trip story line that might have been unnecessary. It involves a drive from New Jersey to Miami Beach to attend a Paula Abdul concert. Trouble is, the four guys only have three tickets. So they turn the trip into a multi-stop contest in which they subject each other to a series of really awkward situations to see who will make the concert ticket cut and who won’t.
That part of the trip is as scripted and staged as any other low-budget comedy road trip movie. Long conversations in the car and motel stops with pranks like locking one of the guys who hates cats in a room with a large tiger on a chain.
As their fans know, their stock and trade usually involves them out in public making fools out of themselves. And there’s some of that throughout the film. They wander around the reflecting pool in Washington, DC with the cremated urn of a fictitious friend asking passersby if they would listen to the content of a profane eulogy that they wanted to test out before dumping the ashes in the water.
It’s comedy in the tradition of Candid Camera, but taking the concept light years from the original, tame gags involving voices coming out of street corner mailboxes.
That was then, and this is now, an age when you need to crank things up. Pole dancers, naked guys clinging to a stranded dingy in the middle of a river, whatever it takes to get a reaction.
What occurred to me is that these guys are more interested in cracking each other up than caring whether the audience is in on the tastelessness of what they’re doing. And I guess that must be working based on the success of what they’ve cranked out so far.
Being a novice to this, my recommendation here would have been to do a compilation of their crazy antics much like what they offer in the TV series and leave out the bogus journey to attend the staged Paula Abdul concert. What I’m suggesting is something along the lines of what Monty Python did so successfully in And Now for Something Completely Different. Namely serving up what the fans want to see.