Growing up, I was lucky enough to live right across the street from a Six Flags amusement park. My family and I would get season passes every year and I basically grew up with Six Flags. I grew up riding roller coasters and all the other rides in the park. I grew up with the cheesy theatrics and food that tasted great when I was seven, but hasn’t aged very well. To this day, I still love going Six Flags and any other amusement park.
No amusement park that I have ever been to has been anything close to that of the legendary Action Park, the historically dangerous amusement park/water park in Vernon, New Jersey. Directors Seth Porges and Chris Charles Scott III have made a documentary that shows us what this park was all about, from its rides to the people who worked there to the lawsuits and given us a full idea of what Action Park really was like. Much like the park itself, Class Action Park is funny, wild, shocking, and sad.
The film tells the entire history of Action Park. Created by Gene Mullvihill in 1978, Mullvihill financed the park from a Wall Street mogul named Bob Brennan and wanted to make the first modern water park and found the small town Vernon, New Jersey to be the right spot for his new creation. Mullvihill, regarded by many as an energetic madman, allowed anyone and everyone who had ideas for rides and attractions to come in, pitch them the idea, and then build the idea. These rides include such things as the Cannonball Loop, which was a water slide that had a 360-degree loop towards the end of it, the Tarzan Swing, in which patrons would swing from a rope and land in a freezing cold river, not pool, a river, and the Colorado River Ride, which was a lazy river ride that that was made to resemble actual rapids in Colorado. These attractions, along with every other one in the park, would cause countless injuries to the patrons and sometimes even death. But even if a patron died, Mullvihill was such a stubborn bulldog that he would make the cases go as long as possible and take them all the way to court, where they would be settled or thrown out, and then the park would stay open.
Along with the injuries at the hand of the rides and attractions, the film shows how the park was being ran by rebellious teenagers, which basically meant it wasn’t being ran at all. Nobody cared about anything but partying, hanging out, drinking, hooking up, and having a good time, which sounds great, except when you are a lifeguard who is in-charge of making sure people don’t drown. There were tons of booze and drugs being consumed and a number of fights daily, which only added to the lore of the park. It was a wild, dangerous place to be, but those who survived it loved it.
The talking heads really give us the idea of what this park was really like. Proges and Scott III talk to a number of former employees, like the head of security or a parking attendant, to people who attended the park, like comedian Chris Gethard and actress Alison Becker. They all talked about different aspects of the park, from the attractions to the atmosphere to Mullvihill to what it was like working their, yet they all had one thing in common: this was place was insane, but they loved it. They had all gotten hurt on one ride or another, yet they saw it as time the represented the 80s and New Jersey perfectly.
Proges and Scott III do a great job representing the tone of the park throughout the film. Through great footage of the park and fun animation, the film is fun, exciting, and crazy, and really captivating, almost making me wish I had the chance to visit the park. But much like the park, it is all fun and games until someone gets seriously hurt and Proges and Scott III don’t just focus on the fun but also the tragedy that occurred in the park and it takes the tone from fun and crazy to sad and depressing. Though people had fun at the park, there were those who were affected in different ways and Proges and Scott III make sure we don’t forget it.
Though Action Park no longer exists, the legend of it will never go away. Class Action Park only adds to the legend, giving us an in-depth look at this crazy park. If you had no idea this park existed, this will give you a great idea of what it was all about and what went on. If you knew about it, it will give you more information and show you things you hadn’t seen before. And if you visited the park and survived, this film will either give you PTSD about getting stuck in the Cannonball Loop or you’ll shed a tear reminiscing about one of the greatest times of your life.
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