Class Action Park (2020)

class action park poster 2020 movie
8.0 Overall Score

Looks at how danger can be fun

Walking the line between the danger and actual loss is tricky

Movie Info

Movie Name: Class Action Park

Studio: Pinball Party Productions

Genre(s): Documentary

Release Date(s):  August 20, 2020 (Florida Film Festival)/August 27, 2020 (US)

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

class action park documentary hbo

Come to Action Park where dreams and nightmares become reality

On May 26, 1978, Action Park opened in Vernon, New Jersey and the lives of kids in the surrounding area was forever changed.  The park was divided into Alpine Center, Motorworld, and Waterworld and featured some of the most popular and dangerous attractions around the country.  Looping waterslides, raging rapids, rope swings, motorboats, and sled rides through concrete and asbestos filled tubes were highlights of the park.  Founded by Eugene Mulvihill, Mulvihill believed safety restrictions and guest supervision caught into his bottom line…and Action Park soon became Traction Park as the injuries piled up.  As the park faced fatalities and money laundering scheme, Action Park found itself in a battle for survival…but for many of the kids of Action Park, surviving the park was a rite of passage.

class action park alpine slide ride

No supervision? No problem!

Directed by Seth Porges and Chris Charles Scott III, Class Action Park is a HBO Documentary.  The film premiered at the Florida Film Festival before being released on HBO Max.  The documentary chronicles the New Jersey Action Park amusement park which was open from 1978 to 1996.

Before the internet, amusement parks were always hit by rumors and stories of the dangers that lurked in the park.  Growing up in Indiana a water park called Thunder Island had their own rumors of deaths (unsubstantiated), but as you went to the park, you suspected a potential of danger…amplifying the fun of the park.  Unlike Thunder Island, Action Park was definitely dangerous, and Class Action Park finds itself in a tricky of balancing the fun and the real life loss found at the park.

class action park loop slide

Loopy-loop slide? What could go wrong…

The movie is essentially split into three parts.  The people who went to Action Park and the workers, those who lost people at Action Park, and the legal dramas facing Eugene Mulvihill as owner of Action Park.  The people who attended the park for the most part recognize the danger of Action Park.  It was a scary place where things could go wrong and the teenage staff wasn’t in a position to really help anyone if they did.  The rides were dangerous and poorly maintained, and rules were not followed…but for many of them it was the best time.

The second part is tricky because they speak to people who actually lost love ones at Action Park.  For those people, there are no good memories of the park and “badge of honor” injuries that people picked up at the park are scars that never heal for these families.  The documentary tries to blend them and reconcile the two sides, but it sometimes feels jarring.

class action park wave pool

Yep…I enjoy a bunch of teen watching me struggle to survive in a jam-packed wave pool

The third part is the crimes of Mulvihill.  Today, Mulvihill would probably be seen as a hero by some groups who fear “big government” forcing him to crack down, but he’s a criminal even if he never really had to pay for his crimes.  He created a fake insurance, paid little for people’s lives, and used the time to make himself rich by bending the rules.  The documentary kind of goes back and forth on how to portray him, but he was ultimately the one running an unsafe park.

Class Action Park shows a “simpler time” where “kids can be kids”, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it is better.  Kids will always do stupid stuff no matter how many rules are put in front of them, but eliminating some of the risks isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  Action Park has opened (and closed) in different forms and names cine 1996, but it probably will never be the Action Park of some people’s childhoods…and that isn’t a bad thing.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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