For years, “Impractical Jokers” has been a television staple. The silly antics of four friends from Staten Island has proven to be a hit, providing escapism for the masses. Now, the Jokers head to the big screen in an effort to further dominate mass entertainment. “Impractical Jokers: The Movie” will certainly play best to fans of the show. However, the comedy won’t be lost on anyone, since friends ribbing each other is pretty universal. Audiences who flocked to the “Jackass” films will find an even funnier hidden camera movie here, with a narrative thrown in for good measure. It’s low art, without question, but it’s damn funny.
“Impractical Jokers: The Movie” isn’t fan service, but it is at its best when aping the style of the TV show. Two thirds of the film plays like an extended episode of the series, with the hidden camera pranks that have made the program a hit. The other third, which comes closer to the Jokers’ failed TV experiment “Jokers Wild,” is a narrative through-line for the rest of the flick. Story-wise, it’s thin and forgettable, with limited scope. As a method to get you to the next gag scenario, however, it serves its purpose.
The plot, such as there is, begins with the origin story of the group. High school pals on Staten Island, Joe Gatto, James Murray (or Murr), Brian Quinn (or Q), and Sal Vulcano are excited for a Paula Abdul concert. They don’t have tickets but sneak in, posing as security, even managing talk to her. The evening gives them the impetus to create their comedy troupe, but it also creates a conflict with Abdul. Years later, however, she recognizes them and invites the quartet to a private show down in Florida. Regrettably, she only leaves a trio of lanyards. These being The Impractical Jokers, they agree to road trip down south, competing for the three spots at the show. One retro car later, they’re off.
On the road, Joe, Murr, Q, and S engage in their typical competitive shenanigans. They also stage multiple punishments, getting all four into some ridiculous situations. In between, their stops at hotels down the East Coast lead the other three guys to discover some very odd things about Murr. It all culminates in Miami, at Abdul’s show. The story may not wrap up in any kind of special manner, but the final punishment is one for the ages.
No one will accuse the four leads of being great actors, but they do a passable job when the scripted elements come into play. The sketches, on the other hand, are all top notch. Two or three would easily be among the best any season of the show would feature, with one in particular generating an explosion of laughter. No spoilers, but Q’s parents make an appearance you won’t soon forget. There are also a few punishments that hearken back to classic ones from the show. The extra bit of comedy may be lost on newbies, though still hilarious on their own, but hardcore fans will double over with laughter.
Aesthetically, this is just like an “Impractical Jokers” episode, though perhaps with a higher budget. Director Chris Henchy keeps the pace breezy, making 90 minutes go by in a flash. Realizing that the best possible sketches are the selling point, Henchy leans into that, providing some absolute gems. The script, which he wrote with Gatto, Murray, Quinn, and Vulcano, isn’t the sharpest, unfortunately. Knowing this, the group makes for as many improvisational sequences as possible. Any lull in laughter is short lived.
If you love “Impractical Jokers,” it isn’t a stretch to think that “Impractical Jokers: The Movie” will be up your alley. Moreover, if you enjoy unabashed silliness, this may provide an hour and a half of consistent laughter. The world is often not a funny place these days. Forgetting your troubles with a comedic romp like this is a perfect tonic. The ambitions here may be on the modest side, but the execution is thoroughly on point.