'Impractical Jokers: The Movie': Film Review

truTV series Impractical Jokers - Publicity2 -H 2018
Courtesy of truTV/A Time Warner Company
Wait for video, Joker-heads.

Chris Henchy directs a feature-length showcase for the humble hijinks that have made four Staten Island buddies stars on cable.

A cheap ploy to wring some theatrical dollars out of a franchise that has already enjoyed vastly more success than any sane person would've predicted, Chris Henchy's Impractical Jokers: The Movie contrives a New York-to-Miami road trip on which the TV series' four buddies do exactly what they do on the small screen: Coach each other through hidden-camera stunts that leave innocent bystanders flummoxed and the Jokers in stitches. Fans of these four likeable doofuses who also have a fondness for the 1988 Paula Abdul hit "Forever Your Girl" (which dominates the soundtrack, thanks to the film's Abdul-centric conceit) should enjoy the ride, though why somebody would get off the couch and spend money to see it is anyone's guess.

A goofy intro flashes back to Staten Island circa 1994, when our heroes are high-schoolers who desperately want to see Abdul in concert but don't have tickets. Getting into the arena with fake security credentials, they wind up backstage, where they convince Murr (James Murray) to go ask the singer for her phone number while the others capture the moment on camera. The quartet's videotaped-dare shtick is born; but while they're high on adrenaline, they wind up wrecking the concert itself.

Decades later, the men cross paths with Abdul at the most likely place, a Red Lobster. She recognizes them — not as the dudes who spoiled her concert, but as TV stars. Saying she's a big fan (except for the show's fifth season), Abdul invites them to a party she's about to throw in Miami. But her assistant only leaves the four men three laminates, forcing them to decide who doesn't get to attend. They'll do this as they conduct all such negotiations: While road-tripping south, they'll stage a series of pranks and see which man pulls them off less successfully than the others.

These candid-camera bits are exactly what you'd expect on the show that has run on cable for eight years: They ask visitors to the Mall in Washington, D.C., for critiques of outrageous eulogies they're supposedly about to deliver; they pretend to be stranded motorists, then make life hard for the good Samaritans who pull over to help; they try to convince spelunking tourists that a child has been trapped in the cave since the '80s, growing up to be a culturally clueless mole-man.

The stunts are hit-and-miss; as always, they're more enjoyable if you have a weak spot for seeing the guys guffaw wildly at every bit of confusion they cause: Typically, one is taking instruction through an earpiece while the others give improvised orders from a nearby command station. Those three are always looking for bits of dialogue that will be nearly impossible to say with a straight face, and these are sometimes inspired — though rarely as hilarious as the non-stop laughter from behind the scenes would suggest.

But Jokers fans know this game from front to back. What Henchy & co. come up with to stitch these bits together into a feature is so thinly imagined it makes the bits themselves look like masterpieces of dramatic construction. The most prominent running gag is that Murr's life outside the show is a mystery to his pals Q (Brian Quinn), Sal (Sal Vulcano) and Joe (Joe Gatto): The men will occasionally have a reason to knock on his hotel-room door at night and, from the hallway, will witness everything from an in-progress spin class to a cocktail party for senior citizens. Murr does not invite his friends in to join.

As for the party at the end of the trip, well, by this point you may have heard enough versions of "Forever Your Girl" to be less thrilled than the boys are to hear it live in concert. They manage to be victorious and cause embarrassment simultaneously, as is their wont, and make nice with the former pop star. Almost as an afterthought, they hatch one more bit of silly action before the credits roll — one that actually puts a life in danger, instead of just risking social awkwardness, and makes the rest of the pic look like the work of underachievers.

Production companies: truTV, Funny or Die
Distributor: truTV
Cast: Brian Quinn, Joe Gatto, James Murray, Sal Vulcano, Paula Abdul, Jaden Smith
Director: Chris Henchy
Screenwriters: Chris Henchy, Brian Quinn, Joe Gatto, James Murray, Sal Vulcano
Producers: Brian Quinn, Joe Gatto, James Murray, Sal Vulcano, Buddy Enright, Chris Henchy
Production designer: Daniel A. Davila
Costume designer: Erinn Knight
Editor: Thomas M. Vogt
Composers: Leo Birenberg, Paul Jones, Zach Robinson

Rated PG-13, 92 minutes