‘Class Action Park‘ is a documentary that discusses the iconic and now-defunct Action Park directed by Seth Porges and Chris Charles Scott III. It was released as an HBO Max exclusive and narrated by John Hodgman.
Action Park is legendary as a water park as well as the number of lawsuits over safety violations, injuries, and even deaths that happened. We hear the history of the park and its eccentric founder Eugene Mulvihill, who wanted to channel the rebelliousness of the eighties and Generation X. They had rough waterways, go-carts, and beer tents where it only led to trouble. Stories of serious injuries and rides with virtually no protection for the guests and lifeguards who were ill-trained to handle any sort of injury or danger. Through interviews with former security guards, service providers, managers, and even celebrities who also visited like Chris Gethard and Alison Becker describe the park. They also interview Esther Larsson whose son died after an incredibly tragic accident which Action Park tries to spin.
As for how it is made, the production values are done very well. It uses these interviews and archival footage to share the story of Action Park and it does a good job in that regard. Also, John Hodgman is an excellent narrator. His monologues helped to create the context for what was happening on screen or what an interviewee was discussing. This helped clear up any sort of misunderstanding. I will say, there is a lot of swearing in this film. I do not blush, but if I was a parent who visited the park at its peak and wanted to show this to my kids, I would watch a YouTube documentary that did not have so much foul language.
You do feel sorry for Esther Larsson over the loss of her son George Larsson Jr. His death was clearly negligence on the part of the park and you feel her desire to find some sort of justice for her son. It is a death that never should have happened and could have easily been avoided. Not just his, but others who died as a result of a lack of safety measures.
I did feel some of the commentary was hamstrung. For instance, some journalist is interviewed and she somehow connected Reaganism and the idea of the rugged individual for the philosophy of the park. After I heard that I thought, “did you hurt your arm making that reach?” Of course, they worked in a Trump insult even though he had absolutely nothing to do with the park, which they admit in the documentary.
They also kept trying to blame Generation X and the desire to be “free-range” for the attitude of Action Park. Okay, this is one water park and yes, it had a “party hard” vibe to it, but trying to connect it to a greater problem of kids wanting to have fun away from home was a bit of a stretch. If anything, it goes to cronies in state and local governments. Mulvihill kept pockets lined and that helped him continue his business until it was just unsustainable. That’s on the government, not kids just going to an amusement park to go down a water slide.
Besides those things, hearing the history of Action Park, its rise, its popularity, its neighborhood, and its eventual fall, was incredibly interesting.
Check out the trailer below:
What do you think? Let me know in the comments below. Tell me if there is a comic book, movie, or novel you would like me to review. While you are at it, check out my documentary reviews for Tread, Fishing With Dynamite, and The Rise of Jordan Peterson. Don’t forget to like, share, and subscribe for more posts like this one.