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5 best and 5 worst things in Impractical Jokers: The Movie

Since its debut eight years ago, Impractical Jokers has been one of the funniest, most ludicrous shows on TV. In the unscripted series, which airs on TruTV, four friends — Joseph "Joe" Gatto, Salvatore "Sal" Vulcanom Brian "Q" Quinn, and James "Murr" Murray — dare each other to undertake hidden-camera challenges designed to make both the stars and innocent passersby as uncomfortable as possible, delivering big laughs for the audience along the way. It's a formula that's paid off big for the quartet (just look at TruTV's schedule, which is practically nothing but Impractical Jokers), and shows no signs of slowing down any time soon.

Now the Jokers are taking their talents to movie theaters, but can the modest prank show survive the transition to the big screen? As it turns out, it can, although not without a few hiccups along the way. If Impractical Jokers isn't your thing, Impractical Jokers: The Movie isn't going to change your mind. If you dig the show's ridiculous sense of humor, though, you'll like the movie, too. No, it's not perfect — but then again, what is?

Best: A winning formula in any format

Unsurprisingly, the best thing about Impractical Jokers: The Movie is also the best thing about Impractical Jokers the television show: It has a setup that works.

As in the series, Impractical Jokers: The Movie's heart is the hidden-camera pranks. Typically, these all use the same format. One by one, each member of the cast is put into a fairly mundane situation — in the movie, for example, the Jokers try to interview for new jobs, and need to flag down help when their car breaks down on the highway — while their comrades watch from afar. The Joker in the hot seat is wearing an earpiece and must do whatever the other three tell him. If a Joker refuses to follow directions or can't accomplish his goal, he gets a thumbs down. Whoever has the most thumbs-downs at the end loses.

The movie works the same way. It's just longer. Sal, Q, Joe, and Murr are all extremely talented improvisers, and easily come up with new ways to torture their friends and spin their team members' outrageous demands into comedy gold. So what if we've seen it before? Like they say, if it's not broken, it doesn't need fixing.

Worst: Not for newcomers

Impractical Jokers: The Movie is for longtime fans first and everyone else second. At this point, there are over 200 episodes of the show, plus more than 30 TV specials. That's a lot of Impractical Jokers, and while the movie doesn't reference it all, it does the best it can. One gag plays on Sal's well-established fear of cats. Another recalls a bit from all the way back in season two.

If you've seen every episode of Impractical Jokers, these callbacks should delight you. If you're new to the show, your mileage will probably vary. Impractical Jokers: The Movie catches newbies up on what they need to know, but a few punchlines don't really land unless you've been following the gang the whole time.

Similarly, Impractical Jokers: The Movie assumes you already know the cast, because it doesn't spend much time introducing them. In fact, some segments, like an opening "flashback" that shows what these guys looked like in high school, will fall completely flat for newcomers. The joke is all about seeing the Impractical Jokers done up in '90s styles, but if you don't know what they look like to begin with, you're not going to get much out of it.

Best: Bigger really is better (or at least just as good)

Impractical Jokers: The Movie clearly has a bigger budget than the TV show (although it's still not a huge production), and for the most part it's put to good use. Impractical Jokers is a funny show, but it's a modest one. A lot of the action takes place in shopping malls and city parks. The challenges are simple, and on average the punishments are pretty low key.

Not so in the movie. While Impractical Jokers: The Movie still relies on the charm and talent of its cast for its humor, the extra scope gives the group room to go a little bit bigger. It's hard to imagine a real-life tiger showing up on the TV series, for example, or the Jokers taking over a convention hall filled with 600 people, or Jaden Smith stopping by to help with one of the pranks. In the movie, though? All that happens, and you won't blink an eye.

Not every big embellishment matters, of course. One bit, which involves the Jokers delivering off-color eulogies, doesn't really gain anything from being filmed at the National Mall in Washington DC. The job interview sequence at the Atlanta Hawks' headquarters could have happened anywhere. Still, the Jokers seem energized by the extra freedom the movie gives them, and it's hard not to get caught up in their enthusiasm.

Worst: If there's a movie that doesn't need a plot, it's this one

For Impractical Jokers: The Movie, the guys could've basically made a bigger, more extravagant episode of the TV series. Instead, they decided to give the film an actual story. It's not clear why.

The film opens in '92, when the Jokers were still in high school (naturally, the real-life adults play the teenage versions of themselves), and chronicles their mishaps at a Paula Abdul concert gone wrong. In the present day, the quartet get the opportunity to redeem themselves when Abdul recognizes them at a Red Lobster and invites them to a party she's throwing in Miami. There's just one problem: Abdul only gives them three tickets. And so, as the Jokers travel from Long Island to Florida, they compete in a series of prank battles. The three winners get to go to the party. The loser has to stay home.

Unfortunately, the pre-scripted plot scenes drag everything to a halt. Joe, Q, Sal, and Murr are funny guys, but they're not great actors and none of the jokes really hit — there's a reason their sketch comedy spinoff didn't even finish its six-episode run, after all. Impractical Jokers doesn't need to explain why these guys are playing pranks. It's just what they do. Even worse, the story doesn't really lead to anything, either. It's mostly there to fill time, and it feels completely unnecessary.

Best: Comedy with compassion

Impractical Jokers: The Movie isn't like other prank movies. It's uncomfortable, but it's never cruel. While Jackass is about inflicting pain and Borat goes out of its way to make its targets look like idiots, Impractical Jokers' only real victims are the Jokers themselves. Regular civilians might suffer minor inconveniences, but the final joke is always on Joe, Sal, Murr, and Q. They don't make others uncomfortable. They make themselves uncomfortable. There's a big difference.

That's true of the show, and it's true of the movie too. Impractical Jokers' pranks are absurd, but they're rarely mean. In the movie, Jokers often decide it's better to lose a challenge than put unsuspecting civilians in awkward situations. Sure, Murr is probably surprised when his entire extended family surprises him at a strip club mid-lap dance, but he signed on to this years ago. He must've known something was coming.

Instead of robbing Impractical Jokers of its edge, the compassionate approach actually makes the movie funnier. The Jokers seem like genuinely good people, which makes them sympathetic, which makes their inevitable embarrassment even more painful. It also gives each prank two punchlines. It's funny to watch regular people react to the Jokers. It's even more fun to watch the Jokers themselves deal with a particularly bizarre or humiliating challenge. The Jokers are the funniest people in the movie, and focusing the comedy on them results in more laughter, not less.

Worst: The stakes are even lower than normal

Impractical Jokers isn't just a prank show. It's a competition. While the ultimate goal might be making the audience laugh, each member of the cast spends every episode doing his best to win the challenge at hand. After all, if you fail, you'll get turned into a human pinata, forced to face down a crowd of angry Bingo players, or worse.

Those punishments were all real. The one in Impractical Jokers: The Movie isn't. Missing out on a fake party isn't exactly the same as being strapped to a table while tarantulas walk all over you, and the film suffers for it. Ironically, even though the movie's storyline seems like it's there to give the competition bigger stakes, the plot actually robs the film of any tension. The consequences aren't real, so there's no reason to care.

Impractical Jokers: The Movie has "punishments," of course, and they're some of the best parts of the film, but they don't work the same way they do on the show. On TV, the punishments are consequences for failure. In the movie, they're random asides that pop up as the Jokers travel across the country. That doesn't make them any less funny, but it does make the movie even less exciting than an episode of television. Watch Impractical Jokers for the laughs. You won't find any drama here.

Best: A cast with real chemistry

Joe, Q, Sal, and Murr literally grew up together. They all went to the same high school. They've been performing comedy together since 1999.

As a result, they know each other very, very well, and their close bond comes through onscreen. Not only do they know exactly how to push each other's' buttons — a skill that comes in pretty handy when you're trying to put your buddy through hell — but they have an easy camaraderie that lends itself well to comedy. The pranks and challenges are (mostly) hilarious, but the Jokers are also just fun to hang out with, and some of their offhand conversations end up being some of the funniest bits of the movie.

In a way, that's what makes Impractical Jokers' pre-scripted scenes so egregious. One of the things that makes Impractical Jokers special is that the Jokers are clearly real people. The film's story segments, however, transform all of them — especially Murr — into cartoon characters. That really doesn't work. The Jokers are great because they're relatable. We believe in them because we believe their friendship, and the movie is at its best when their real-life bond is on full display.

Worst: Funny, but inconsistent

Here's the thing about unscripted comedy: You don't know what you're going to get until the cameras start rolling.

One challenge, which takes place on a boat, never engages the unsuspecting people around the Jokers in a meaningful or funny way. Another gag, in which Q dresses up like a Roman centurion and rides a horse alongside the highway, never gets out of first gear. It's a funny concept, but it doesn't build to a real punchline. Same thing for a segment in which Joe dresses up as a cave creature and surprises a tour group. Joe's special effects makeup is hilarious, but the situation is so absurd that everyone immediately realizes that the comedian is doing a bit. Despite a committed performance, the whole thing falls flat.

Given the format, that's to be expected. You can't plan for how regular people are going to react, and some inconsistency seems inevitable. Thankfully, Impractical Jokers' weaker segments tend to be pretty short. When things start to slow down, don't worry. They'll pick up again soon.

Best: When it works, it really works

Thankfully, when Impractical Jokers delivers, it delivers big. During an extended job interview-related challenge, our audience howled with laughter. A bit featuring Sal in a pet-friendly hotel elicited genuine gasps. When one of the Jokers took the stage at a social media influencers' convention to deliver an ad-hoc presentation — designed by his friends, of course — viewers greeted the big payoff with literal shrieks.

In sections like these, you can really see the benefits of bringing Impractical Jokers to the big screen. Unencumbered by cable network schedules or the need to structure episodes around commercial breaks, pranks get all the room they need to breathe. Segments build more naturally to their climaxes, leading to more effective punchlines. Everything is paced better, and it feels like less was left on the cutting room floor.

Impractical Jokers: The Movie isn't an epic cinematic adventure. Ultimately, it's still just four middle-aged guys acting silly. It is, however, very, very funny. At the end of the day, what more could you really want?

Worst: It's all been building to... this?

Impractical Jokers is a short movie. It clocks in at just over an hour and a half, and most of it breezes right by. Near the end of the film, however, things begin to drag. The pranks and punishments — the stuff we're really watching for — disappear. The scripted segments take over for good, with quickly diminishing returns.

As a result, Impractical Jokers: The Movie limps to the finish line. As the Jokers reconcile with Paula Abdul and discuss the decades-long friendship that's kept them together for so long, you're waiting for one big, final laugh. It never comes. Impractical Jokers ends with a large-scale stunt, but while it's impressive in terms of its scope, it's not really that funny. There's not even a post-credits sequence to send the audience home with a smile. The movie just kind of fizzles out, leaving you vaguely unsatisfied.

Again, it's not that big of a deal. The rest of the movie is fun and likable, and you'll leave the theater having had a good time. Still, something as good as Impractical Jokers: The Movie deserves a real climax. Not giving it one is maybe the Jokers' cruelest joke of all.