Streaming on HBO Max, this documentary tells the story of a world without rules a world that is wild and fun and resulted in the deaths of five people. The movie is full of unbelievable stories. Memorable anecdotes and an interesting perspective on growing up.
Action Park was an amusement park located in New Jersey. It was opened by Eugene Mulvihill in 1978 back when water parks were new and it was basically the Wild West. “Uncle Gene” as he was called by friends and employees didn’t believe in rules or regulations. He wanted to recreate his country upbringing and give to the kids of the area. This meant a lazy river designed to mimic the most intense rapids of the Colorado River, a twenty foot cliff that kids could jump off of into a stream fed pool, and something called the kayak experience in which underwater fans churned up the water to give the feel of intense waves.
The film incorporates former employees and former guests of the park to share their experiences. Their anecdotes would be unbelievable if they weren’t all corroborated by each other.
One if the most incredible attractions was called the Cannonball Loop. It was a water slide that began in a steep decline then shot up into a 360 degree vertical loop that then deposited the rider into a pool. This slide was designed by Uncle Gene on the back of a napkin. He hired local welders to put it together. They dummies down to test it. They came out the other side mangled. They made adjustments and Uncle Gene offered $100 to anybody brave enough to go down the slide. The first brave sounds came out with bloodied mouths from hitting their faces in the loop. They made some changes and Uncle Gene paid some more kids to try it out. These kids came out the other side with scratches. They couldn’t figure out why until they opened the slide and found the teeth from the first kids embedded in the padding of the slide.
That’s just the first of many insane stories that this film has to offer. It gets crazier from there if you can believe that. The big question is with insane safety risks like this how did this park stay open? It turns out Uncle Gene had connections and a ruthless streak that the film explores. Spoiler alert but money talks. Health and safety are secondary to a healthy profit.
The film takes its time exploring these ridiculous rides and the wild anecdotes of irresponsible people behaving badly. It also explains how all this was allowed to happen, but it then shows the cost of this place. Five people died at this park. Lack safety regulations and no enforcement of rules by employees lead to the deaths of five people, and the film gives a deep exploration of one family’s experience with losing a child at the park. It’s a heartbreaking and harrowing story.
The movie ultimately explores how growing up has changed over the years. Today kids have rigid schedules full of sports teams and musii oh c lessons. Kids back then were told to go out and play. They had more freedom back then, but was that a good thing? After all they spent their free time at places like Action Park where nothing was safe and you were almost guaranteed to get seriously hurt or killed. It would be easy to glorify that past like most of our nostalgic media does, but this film takes a harder look at how this generation grew up.
I really loved this movie. I laughed. I cried. I thought about things in a new way. It’s a crazy story that elicited a similar reaction to Tiger King where every new detail made me say “are you kidding?”out loud. I highly recommend this wild ride.
Definitely my cup of tea. A