Saturday, April 18, 2009

Day Eighty-Eight: Adventureland (2009) - Rank 3.5/5


The advertising for this film is one of the classic bait-and-switch deals of Hollywood - market a film as a comedy when it really isn't a comedy. Don't get me wrong - "Adventureland" has its fair share of laughs (mostly cranked out by the geekish Martin Star). However, it's more on par with John Hughes' "The Breakfast Club" when it comes to the tone of the film. So, undoubtedly, many viewers will enter the theater expecting zany hilarity commensurate with "Superbad" (writer/director Greg Mottola's previous project) only to be disappointed. I was pleasantly surprised at the mature turn the nouveau auteur has taken in his latest endeavor.

The film is excellently cast - drawing from a bevy of actors that resemble "real people" rather that vying to go for star power. While Jesse Eisenberg may be mo Michael Cera - an individual whose prowess when it comes to playing awkward teens is astoundingly accurate - he still succeeds at adding creditability and sympathy to James Brennan (a poor schmuck who graduates high school only to end up working at an amusement park rather than backpacking across Europe after his father loses his job). Bill Heder and Kristen Wiig are great as the misanthropic owners of the park and Kristen Stewart successfully channels Jena Malone for her character of Em. Ryan Reynolds has a supporting role, and he's certainly the man actor that the studio is pimping to promote the film. Yet he seems out of place. It's almost as if he's too smug and well-preened to exist as a handyman at a low-grade amusement park, regardless of the story you use to explain it.

My only issue with the film was that it wasn't eighties enough (my same problem with "Fanboys" - mind you, with it, there was an absence of "1998"). There were a few hairstyles and clothing choices, but for the better part, the time period seemed incidental and unnecessary. I think the only purpose it had was to help recreate Mottola's childhood with greater accuracy (the film being based on a summer he spent as a game worker at the titular amusement park). In my opinion, if you're going to set a film in a distinctive era, you should immerse the audience in it (a la "Dazed and Confused" for example). However, the running gag of "Rock Me, Amadeus" over the park's loudspeakers almost made up for this fact, but, alas, the song was absent from the closing credits - a perfect time to hit a running gag home.

Watch the Trailer

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