Four lifelong friends go on a quest to attend a Paula Abdul event in Miami. Along the way, they can’t stop pranking one another — and occasionally whomever happens by.
That’s the movie.
“Impractical Jokers: The Movie” is a totally made-up origin story of the improv comedy quartet (Joe Gatto, Sal Vulcano, Brian Quinn, James Murray) on the truTV prank show. The surprisingly popular series — with more than 200 episodes — consists of elaborate hidden-camera setups designed to humiliate the “Jokers.” Usually, the member on the spot wears an earpiece and obeys his friends’ absurd commands. Sometimes it even works.
A surprise eulogy segment, in which the guys take turns trying out “bereavement” speeches on passersby, is particularly good. The meticulously arranged embarrassment of one of them before a crowd of 600 is very funny. Problematic job interviews for the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks are gold.
However, the gags are often better in theory than practice. Some aren’t easy to laugh at because they don’t secure the consent of bystanders. There’s a summer-Santa prank, for instance, that confuses kids.
At their worst, the jokes veer cringingly toward stereotypes. To their credit, the members bail on gags that begin to whiff of putting women in uncomfortable situations. The bridging scenes of the quest don’t work as well as the ad-libbed moments. Fans of the show will likely be well served.
Ultimately, any movie that essentially starts with Paula Abdul (as Paula Abdul) clotheslining a guy and promising, “One day I’m gonna find you and I will destroy you!” — can’t be all bad.
Running time: 1 hour, 33 minutes
Playing: Starts Feb. 21 in general release