If you're going to make a feature-length film version of a TV prank show, you need to go big or go home. The makers of Impractical Jokers: The Movie should have gone home, because they sure didn't go big. The fun of the three Jackass pictures was that Johnny Knoxville and his gang used the occasion to do all the stuff they couldn't get away with on television, leading to irreverent fun. The Jokers, on the other hand, just deliver a longer version of what you can already get at home for free. Nothing here warrants the cinematic treatment.
Following in the footsteps of Borat and Bad Grandpa, the film mixes actual pranks with a fictional story. In this case, the Impractical Jokers – Brian Quinn, Sal Vulcano, Joe Gatto, and James Murray – run into Paula Abdul at a restaurant. She gives them passes to come to a party she's hosting in Florida. However, she only provides three. The guys decide, naturally, to compete in a series of hidden camera pranks to determine who will not attend the party. All this is done in the name of rectifying a disastrous encounter with Abdul that they had in the '90s.
The film doesn't take its semi-story seriously. Mostly, it just serves to bookend the pranks, which makes one wonder why they even bothered with it in the first place. A lot of the appeal of the Impractical Jokers is that their targets are not unsuspecting people. Instead, they force each other to do embarrassing things in front of strangers. The reactions of passersby could be funny, but the real joke is the way these pals attempt to humiliate one another. It's not a stretch to say that about a quarter of Impractical Jokers: The Movie consists of three guys standing around a video monitor, laughing hysterically at the fourth. If only that laughter was contagious...
Rather than taking advantage of the opportunities afforded by a full-length film, we get sub-par stuff that feels like rejected ideas from the show. There's a dumb bit where one Joker poses as a mall Santa and pretends to fall asleep on the children telling him what they want for Christmas. Another skit finds each of them reading a fake, and highly inappropriate, eulogy in front of willing listeners. Worst of all is a prank on Sal that's so cruel, I can't imagine why anyone would think it's funny. What the other guys do causes him to have an anxiety attack on-camera. These are not exactly brilliant pieces of comedy.
Why not aim higher? Impractical Jokers: The Movie seems afraid to push any boundaries or do anything that goes against its established formula. For a film like this to work, the comedy needs to be cranked up to eleven. (Again, see Jackass.) I'm not saying they needed to be gross or raunchy, but surely there are things they've wanted to do that are bigger or more ambitious than what they do on television. Merely filming a longer episode of the show and projecting it on a larger screen just feels lazy.
I did chuckle a few times. The best prank comes toward the end, when the guys pretend to have a broken-down car on the side of the road. One by one, they take turns making good Samaritans regret pulling over to help. Joe actually gets a guy who's willing to play along with the madness, and that earns some laughter. An intermittent line here and there during a job interview gag does the same. Moments like that are few and far between, though.
Impractical Jokers: The Movie goes back to its Paula Abdul-related plot in the last ten minutes, ensuring that the already-weak film ends with a thud. Such a dopey story isn't enough to justify bringing this material to the big screen, especially when the pranks are generally uninspired. To be fair, the picture is genial enough, it just isn't all that funny. And what's worse than an unfunny prank? Not much.
out of four
Impractical Jokers: The Movie is rated PG-13 for suggestive content, language, some drug references and brief nudity. The running time is 1 hour and 33 minutes.