Alibi V.29 No.9 • Feb 27-March 4, 2020 

Film Review

Impractical Jokers: The Movie

Why, God, why?

Impractical Jokers: The Movie ()

Directed by Chris Henchy

Cast: Brian Quinn, Joe Gatto, James Murray, Sal Vulcano

Impractical Jokers: The Movie
The increased theatrical budget on Impractical Jokers: The Movie allowed for a single novelty T-shirt and an elevator.

We already live in a country heavily divided by politics and culture. Worldwide, economic inequities have lead to a fracturing of society that often pits the increasingly fewer “haves” against the increasingly greater “have-nots.” Life, these days, is tough. So why would Hollywood ask us to endure something like Impractical Jokers: The Movie? Haven’t we suffered enough?

Granted, the hidden camera prank show “Impractical Jokers” has lured enough viewers on truTV to pay for its timeslot and to keep the cheap-to-produce show running for a surprisingly lengthy eight seasons. But who, exactly, was clamoring for a feature-length theatrical version? Stu, that one 12-year-old superfan in Kenosha? A tiny cabal of middle-aged single dudes who all live in studio apartments and own worn-out VHS copies of 1995’s The Jerky Boys: The Movie? Non-fans—and they are in the vast majority of moviegoers—couldn’t care less. And it seems doubtful that the weekly viewership of “Impractical Jokers” (something in the neighborhood of 768,000 18-to-49-year-olds) will actually get off the couch and trek to a movie theater to see something they could watch at home for free. But here we are.

All the way back in 2011, middle-aged doofuses Joe Gatto, Salvatore Vulcano, Brain “Q” Quinn and James “Murr” Murray (aka “The Tenderloins”) created “Impractical Jokers” as a hybrid reality/prank show somewhere between “Candid Camera,” “Punk’d,” and Borat. Only dumber. For each segment of the show, one of the guys dons an earpiece and is put into a wacky situation in which the other three guys tell him what to do and say. Refuse to comply and you “lose.” The show isn’t predicated so much on jokes. The guys aren’t required to actually come up with much in the way of humorous situations or funny lines. They just have to torture one another until someone breaks. Think “Jackass” but with fewer emergency room visits. Hey, that Downton Abbey movie made money for PBS—why can’t truTV do the same?

The “movie” starts out by having longtime Long Island pals Joe, Sal, Q and Murr playing themselves back in high school, circa 1992. Seems the boys are desperate to see hitmaker Paula Abdul in concert and come up with the crazy idea of dressing up like security guards and sneaking into the show. It all goes, predictably, awry and ends with Ms. Abdul (playing herself) delivering a WWE-style clothesline to one of the guys and promising vengeance.

Cut to some 30 years later and the quartet of merry pranksters are eating at a Red Lobster (which must have coughed up at least half of this film’s $1,000+ budget to plug the hell out of its Cheddar Bay Biscuits). Who should they run into at the chain restaurant but Paula Abdul? Apparently she’s forgotten about the juvenile shenanigans and is now a dyed-in-the-wool fan of “Impractical Jokers.” Paula hands over some VIP passes to her big show in Miami. But—horror of horrors—there are only three passes. Naturally, the boys decide to take a cross-country road trip in grandma’s old car, filming pranks along the way. The “loser” will be forced to sit out the concert. Which isn’t real anyway.

As you might expect, the “scripted” sequences setting up the story are painfully contrived at best. Our stars don’t put a lot of effort into convincing us any of this is “real” or “believable” or “worth spending any time on.” Writer-producer-director Chris Henchy (Will Ferrell’s longtime writing partner and the cofounder of Funny or Die) contributes the minimum effort necessary to get these shots on camera. Sloppy lensing, choppy editing and some dialogue that feels “improvised” at best don’t do a lot to separate this theatrical release from its basic cable roots.

That leaves, of course, the assorted hidden camera pranks that got the Jokers here in the first place. How much you enjoy them here will depend entirely on how much you have enjoyed them previously. An opening sequence about a mall Santa in July serves to confuse some children and not much else. Carrying an urn full of ashes while testing out eulogy lines on strangers and goofy job interviews with the Atalanta Hawks might raise a few chuckles. Lord knows they make the four stars bust a gut.

Look, Joe, Sal, Q and Murr are perfectly genial guys and are clearly game for anything. I’m sure they’d be among the more entertaining relatives at your family’s annual Thanksgiving gathering. Clearly they’re having some stupid fun here. Unlike the Coronavirus, however, the fun is not all that infectious. At the end of the day, Impractical Jokers: The Movie isn’t as aggressively stupid a movie as, say, Brahms: The Boy II. It is, however, less of an actual movie. And it’s frankly puzzling to see it in real movie theaters, competing for box office dollars. God help us all if its minimal success inspires truTV to greenlight The Carbonaro Effect: The Movie.

Theaters are closed until further notice

But if you would like a snapshot to help you remember how things used to be…


Impractical Jokers: The Movie

Like a low-rent "Jackass," truTV's "Impractical Jokers" follows middle-aged dorks Brian Quinn, Joe Gatto, James Murray and Sal Vulcano as they challenge one another to perform various hidden camera pranks. How could one basic cable TV show contain all that entertainment? So here's the feature film version that one 12-year-old fan in Kenosha was begging for. The film starts off with a (scripted) flashback to 1994, when the guys were in high school and tried to sneak into a Paula Abdul concert--which, believe it or not, serves as an excuse for all the (non-scripted) hidden camera stunts that follow. 93 minutes PG-13.
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