It’s a tricky balance, making a movie from a TV show.
If the film is a replica, fans would feel ripped off paying for a ticket when they could have turned on the TV. However, if it’s very far afield, fans could also feel cheated. Not to worry with “Impractical Jokers: The Movie,” though: Opening Feb. 21, the film introduces a twist and flashbacks to 1994 (including a plotline with Paula Abdul), but retains the zaniness that makes the Tenderloins beloved.
“The story idea had to be good and had to work within an established dynamic,” says director Chris Henchy who co-wrote the film with the Tenderloins.
Henchy recalls the moment he became a fan. His wife, Brooke Shields, was watching “Impractical Jokers” with their daughters. He walked into the room with a cup of hot coffee, and two episodes later, having not moved, was holding a cup of cold coffee.
He saw the Tenderloins on tour in Nashville, then pitched them a movie — that was great timing because they had long wanted to do one.
Incidentally, the movie is worth the price of admission just to see their 1994 wigs. Brian Quinn devises an absurd scheme to get them into Abdul’s concert. Watching from the wings, Joe Gatto gets carried away and storms the stage. All hell breaks loose, Abdul punches Sal Vulcano in the throat and she swears vengeance on them.
Then the story flashes forward 25 years with the guys running into Abdul, who’s now a fan of theirs, and invites them to a party in Miami. When she flounces out, they discover she left only three passes.
How do they choose who gets to go? Stepped-up challenges, of course. And a road trip in Quinn’s 1999 Crown Vic. (This is his real car, and he slips parking attendants $20 to park it next to Rolls Royces.) Vulcano plays a somnambulant mall Santa in the summer, and Gatto is a zombie looking like a vampiric Yoda.
Shot over 25 days, the guys drive from Staten Island, stopping in Delaware; Washington, D.C.; Myrtle Beach, S.C.; and Atlanta, standing in for Miami.
As usual, James Murray winds up in the most precarious situation. If viewers wonder if it’s a stuntman or Murray balancing atop a plane, he confirms: “It was me, and I took a $15 million life insurance out in case I didn’t make it.”
He was fine — although not everyone escaped unscathed. Vulcano will permanently carry a reminder of the movie. You have to wonder if he asked himself: Is one tattoo of Jaden Smith enough?
Vulcano shows off both in the movie. In person, Quinn reveals his cat tat on his arm. Murray’s stamp is of a ferret skydiving. Gatto, though, remains ink-free, saying, “You don’t put a mustache on the Mona Lisa.”