New documentary exposes ‘Disneyland with a death wish’
CLASS ACTION PARK (M)
Across the entire history of good parenting, one adage has continued to hold true: "It's always fun … until someone gets hurt."
Then along came Action Park.
At the height of this maverick New Jersey theme park's popularity, a lot of someones got hurt. And yet, the fun continued.
Unsupervised. Unregulated. Uninsured. And unbelievably dangerous.
In an alternately amusing and appalling new documentary, the inexplicable true story of how great fun and gross negligence collided head-on every day at Action Park is definitively told for the first time.
Seriously, you just can't make up the kind of stuff that went down at Action Park. As one former staff member tells the filmmakers, "it was like an '80s movie come to life."
Every morning, the gates were flung open to greet thousands of young thrillseekers determined to spend the day sampling the park's vast array of bruise-making, bone-breaking delights.
While their parents hit the open bar, the kids literally ran wild all over a sprawling property (a ski resort in a previous life) where there were dodgily constructed, yet undeniably enticing rides and attractions.
There was the infamous Alpine Roller Coaster, where the brakes only worked on an intermittent basis. Over on the Go-Kart track, the miniature vehicles could reach speeds of over 100km/h after a few quick "minor" adjustments.
The Kayak Run propelled patrons through a snake-infested waterway before churning the water underneath to levels that would challenge the most experienced paddler.
Then there was the notorious Cannonball Loop, a high-altitude slide welded to a low-altitude looped tube. This eccentrically conceived excitement machine decapitated several dummies during testing before relieving many patrons of their favourite teeth once it was approved for use.
Presiding over all of this mayhem and more - while fending off a never-ending barrage of lawsuits - was Gene Mulvihill. A disgraced ex-Wall Street trader of junk bonds, Mulvihill had a cunning way of avoiding many a major payout to disgruntled (or disfigured) patrons: he secretly owned the Cayman Islands insurance company which assessed all claims.
This fascinating and wryly amusing documentary takes a darker turn in its final stretches when karma finally catches up with Action Park, and lives are lost as a result of Mulvihill's cavalier interpretation of the word "safety".
Clocking in a well-paced 90 minutes, Class Action Park is a worthy addition to an ever-strengthening line-up of docos produced by the prestige HBO Max stable in the US.
Class Action Park is now streaming on Foxtel; and is coming soon to Binge.
CLASS ACTION PARK (M)
Directors: Chris Scott, Seth Porges
Starring: John Hodgman (narrator), Chris Gethard, Alison Becker, Andrew Mulvihill.
A Disneyland with a death wish
ON THE ROCKS (M)
Had it been released at any other time but 2020, this beautifully executed, utterly charming low-key affair definitely would have been a sleeper hit in Australian cinemas.
Instead, like so many other movies that have dared poke their head over the parapet in recent times, it will come and go with little fanfare before a quick migration to home streaming.
Do make a point of tracking it down before the year is through, and be rewarded with some of the finest work seen from the great Bill Murray in a long, long time.
Reunited with his Lost In Translation collaborator, writer-director Sofia Coppola, Murray plays Felix, a veteran New York art trader who drifts in and out of the life of his cherished daughter Laura (Rashida Jones) as he pleases.
A bit of a rogue, an obvious ladies' man and a clandestine philosopher, Felix is about to add "private Detective" to his resume when he gets an inkling Laura's workaholic husband might be cheating on her.
Against Laura's wishes, Felix is soon applying all kinds of unnecessary surveillance tactics to get to the bottom of what is going on.
While this movie is definitely slender when it comes to plotting, the chemistry it nurtures and builds between Murray and Jones is as vivid as any screen coupling you'll catch right now.
On the Rocks is now showing for a limited season in cinemas (excl. Vic); and premieres on Apple TV+ later on October 23.
ON THE ROCKS (M)
Director: Sofia Coppola (The Beguiled)
Starring: Rashida Jones, Bill Murray.
Father knows best, suspects worse
Originally published as New documentary exposes 'Disneyland with a death wish'