Indie-hip comedy goes for warm regard rather than screaming
Scott Schiefelbein | Portland, Oregon United States | 07/22/2010
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Director Greg Mottola famously worked at a run-down amusement park in his younger years, and that transformative experience serves "Adventureland" well. This flick goes for a quieter, deeper humor than Mottola's smash hit "Superbad," but it is no less endearing.
It's somewhere in the later '80s, and James (Jesse Eisenberg) is a smart guy cursed with a) a liberal arts degree, b) parents who are unexpectedly financially strapped, and c) who lives in Pittsburgh. (By the way - is it eerie or cool that Eisenberg stars in two movies with similar one-word titles, "Adventureland" and "Zombieland," that are based in theme parks where he plays the Michael Cera role?) To raise the cash to go to Columbia journalism school, James gets stuck with a terrible summer job at Adventureland - a place that puts the "lack" in lackluster.
The theme park is populated with a range of supporting characters that is as solid and pleasing as any ensemble has a right to be. One of the problems with these sorts of films is that the supporting characters tend to be one-note archetypes. That's definitely not the case here - the supporting cast is surprisingly original and defies expectations.
Take the park bombshell Lisa P. (Margaria Levieva). We first see her in one of those Sexy Slow Walks through Adventureland as all the guys stop to watch her lick a Sno-Cone. Every guy's first reaction is, "I hope this is the actress who agreed to do a bit of nudity." Instead of being either a) a simple sexpot or b) a stuck-up rhymes-with-with coasting on her beauty, Lisa P. actually turns out to be cool-but-flawed - she even asks James his thoughts about God during a good pot-smoking session. This is a real girl who just happens to be gorgeous - it's this kind of attention to detail that makes "Adventureland" a pleasure.
Much of the movie focuses on James trying to act on his obvious chemistry with Em (Kristen Stewart, "Twilight" saga). James and Em are seriously into each other, but are kept apart by a variety of neuroses and conflicts. In a lesser film, these two would be kept apart by silly misunderstandings that could be cleared up with a simple five-minute conversation - here, there are darker and deeper issues in play. Whether these issues will be resolved takes time, and as a result we care about these two.
For those of us looking for a raunchy "Superbad 2," "Adventureland" does not fit the bill. Even though this is a funny movie, there are only a couple of laugh-out-loud moments. For me, the funniest scene in the movie involves the park owners, Bobby and Paulette (Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig), as they confront a violent park patron - watching Paulette nonchalantly hand Bobby a baseball bat so he can defend the park's honor before returning to the finances was a perfect snapshot of the lives of these two entrepreneurs. And there is a shot-to-the-groin scene toward the end of the movie that I found as hilarious as Homer Simpson did when he watched Hans Moleman's film, "Football in Groin."
For anyone who's worked a bad job with great coworkers, this movie's for you."
A few passable moments, and that's it
B. E Jackson | Pennsylvania | 07/29/2010
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Adventureland is definitely overrated. It's a film intended *entirely* for young adults. It has a few serious problems though.
For one thing, it completely lacks humor. That wouldn't be so much of a problem if the storyline ever picked up and actually went somewhere interesting instead of being one of literally thousands of typical college teen movies released over the last 10 years involving the *same exact topics*.
Relationships obviously is the most popular topic covered here- partying, fitting in with crowds, and just having fun comes next. It's become so predictable and completely unnecessary by this point that it adds up to a LOT Of useless storyline segments. Instead of movie writers coming up with new material, they keep falling back into the same old routine of predictability, and that's a shame.
In this particular case, the entire storyline revolves around a young college man who takes a part time job at an amusement park, and while there he falls in love with two women. He's actually more interested in one, while the other girl feels more like a mistake to him.
I don't find anything remotely funny about Adventureland either, especially some of the recurring bits (such as one kid kicking the other one in the crotch repeatedly- this isn't really funny to me). Another segment shows the amusement park games being fixed, and paying customers finding out about it. This felt like a really horrible missed opportunity for humor and storyline progression. Awful writing here.
The writing has just become extremely bland by this point. As a result this is a really bad storyline that doesn't even make an attempt to separate itself in a positive way from the rest of the college films out there. What a shame. A film you'll know exactly which direction it's going after the first 20 minutes.
I enjoyed all the Lou Reed material being heard throughout the film, and it's actually an amazing coincidence because I just got done listening to several Lou Reed albums myself, so the soundtrack was a welcome surprise. Still, that's not enough to save some dreadful storytelling, so I recommend skipping Adventureland. No adventure here, I'm afraid."
J. Romeo | knoxville, tn USA | 09/07/2010
(3 out of 5 stars)
"(SPOILERS AHEAD!) Don't worry if you didn't see this movie in the theaters or haven't had a chance to rent it, because you've seen this movie before. Adventureland follows an old formula: boy meets girl. Boy and girl fall in love. Something happens that make boy and girl break up. Of course, they still love each other. Then something happens that brings boy and girl back together.
It's not that formulas are bad. Plenty of movies are based on the same concepts and ideas. For example: Something tragic happens to character X's family. Character X seeks revenge. Character X gets his revenge. Apply this formula one way and we get The Outlaw Josey Wales. Apply it in another way and we get Punisher: Warzone. The difference is the first movie had something to say and the second movie was an excuse to show explosions on the big screen.
Adventureland falls into the second category of a movie that has nothing to say. Greg Mottola, who directed Superbad, brought nothing new to a crowded genre of movies saying the same thing. It's Say Anything without the boom box. It's Jerry Maguire without the "You had me at hello." It's The Notebook without the notebook.
I could almost forgive Mottola for creating a movie that has no interest in being anymore than what it is. Not every film can have a defining moment that captures an audience's heart or defines a generation. However, every movie should have characters the audience cares about. There should be some connection between characters in a movie and the audience. Audiences wanted Marty McFly to get back to the future just as much as they wanted Biff to get his @ss kicked. We loved Marty; we hated Biff. However, we had a connection with Biff, because we have all known a Biff that we wanted to punch in the nose.
Mottola failed to create and develop characters that we care about one-way or the other. If James and Em get back together, that's fine. If they don't get back together, that's fine. If Mike is cheating on his wife, that's fine. If they all get hit by a bus, that's fine too. The impression is that Mottola doesn't care about his characters and if a director doesn't care about his characters then why should we? It's a shame, because the film has a very talented roster.
In the lead role of James is Jesse Eisenberg. James is the self-deprecating, uncomfortable, nerdy guy who is figuring out life. Eisenberg is perfect in the role. He has perfected this same character in other movies like Rodger Dodger and The Hunting Party. It was the same character he played in Zombieland (hmmm.....Adventureland to Zombieland. Coincidence? ).
Playing Eisenberg's love interest is Kristen Stewart...give me a moment to regain my composure.... Stewart plays Em, the girl that shows James the amusement park ropes. I will go on record right now saying, "I like Kristen Stewart." She reminds me of the girl in school (high school, GED classes, college) who is hotter than a three-alarm fire, but has a low self-esteem. You know the girl who covers everything, from the bangs that go past her eyes to the baggy clothes that cover everything else. The girl who thinks that she has to look weird and reject others before they can reject her. The girl who could have anyone, if she were to give it half a chance.
Of course, James falls deeply and madly in love with her before she even opens her mouth. I don't blame the guy; it's Kristen Stewart! However, there is not one single moment in the film that we can see a spark between the two of them. The movie goes from the two of them meeting and then jumps to them being in love. It just happens and we have to go along with it, because Mottola hasn't given us any other choice.
In this type of movie there is always something that tears the happy couple apart. Playing the wedge that comes between James and Em is Mike, played by Ryan Reynolds. I like Reynolds as an actor. He has talent and in movies like Adventureland, he gets to show it. Too often we see Reynolds in movies where he is the smart @ss or the class clown. I admit it; he does a great job in movies like Van Wilder, Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle, and Waiting. But, it's movies like Definitely, Maybe, The Nines, and The Amityville Horror that we really get to see Reynolds shine.
Mike, the amusement park's handy man, had an affair with Em. James freaks out after he learns that the two of them had something going on in the past. Of course, he doesn't want to see her again. This isn't the sad moment that it should be because Mottola has shoved on us a love connection between James and Em that we never believed in the first place. We still don't care when James realizes he made a mistake dumping a hottie like Kristen Stewart and tries to win her back.
The real gems in this movie are Bill Hader and Kristnen Wigg. You may remember Hader as Seth Rogen's cop partner in Superbad and Wigg from Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story. Both actors are hysterical as the owners of the amusement park where James and Em work. They steal every scene that they're in. Unfortunately, neither one of them are on screen long enough to save the movie.
You won't regret watching Adventureland, but there are better flicks that deserve your time."