Thursday, April 9, 2009

Fun For the Select Family


Release: 04.03.09
1 hour, 47 minutes
Rated R

Second Run Seats

After graduating college, James Brennan (Jesse Eisenberg, The Squid and the Whale) learns that his summer in Europe has been downsized much like his father's job. To scrimp and save for his graduate education at Columbia University, James gets hired to work games at Adventureland. He'd prefer to run the rides, but the owner Bobby (Bill Hader, Hot Rod) is certain James looks very gamey. James makes fast friends with fellow gamers Joel (Martin Starr, Knocked Up) and Em (Kristen Stewart, The Messengers). James's heart soars in Em's presence, but her affection may be harder to win than a giant-ass panda.

What better day to review Adventureland than on the 19th birthday of its lead actress, Kristen Stewart! Happy Birthday Kristen. I've only seen Ms. Stewart in a few films but she really knocked her Adventureland performance out of the park. In my opinion, its by and far her best role to date no matter what you Twilighters might think. Both her and Eisenberg do an excellent job conveying the awkwardness and misery of their circumstances. Ryan Reynolds (Waiting...) gives a surprisingly subdued performance as the park's older, cooler maintenance guy. It's also a shock to see Kristen Wiig (Semi-Pro) really rein in her over-the-top wackiness to portray Bobby's simple, silly wife Paulette.

For all the trailers touting Adventureland's hilarity, the laughs are spaced few and far between in this introspective tale of being trapped in Pittsburgh in the eighties. The obviously autobiographical tale by writer-director Greg Mottola (Superbad) both excels and stumbles in it's thoughtfulness. James, Joel and Em have this sophisticated air in contrast to the Philistines that run the rides; in particular Frigo (Matt Bush) and the lovely Lisa P. (Margarita Levieva). By the way I'm not saying this ain't true, but if I were writing my wonder years, I'd have the hottest chick around fawn all over me, too. But I digress. Many times the trio talk and behave so superior to the other characters that it alienates Adventureland from mass audience appeal. There is also considerable underdevelopment of supporting details like James's homelife, which stands out in a film where so much care is given to craft perfectly disdainful retorts and observations.

Dirty Undies
Even in the most retina-searing fashions of the eighties, Lisa P. is smokin' hot! Watching her and BFF Kelly (Kimisha Renee Davis) get their choreographed groove on to jams like Rock Me Amadeus is just too cool for school! Disappointingly, the young Ameircans engage in more sex talk than actual sex. Mostly the gang hangs around drinking booze and smoking James's stash of weed.

The Money Shot
Despite talking over his audience's head a lot, Mottola's Adventureland has some worthy merits. The eighties style and music are spot on. James's atypical honesty and Em's emotional turmoil give this romance a refreshing twist. But if you purchase a ticket to Adventureland searching for a rollercoaster of fun, you'll be in for a swift punch to the nads.

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  1. Methinks Miss Margarita has a the next Jessica Alba. Yowza.

    I think the fact that I never saw the trailer helped me out a lot here. I wasn't going in expecting to laugh my head off, but then again, I can't say that I do very often at many comedies (expect to laugh a ton OR laugh a ton). So I really enjoyed Adventureland for what it was.

  2. I hope Margarita does better for herself than Ms. Alba, at least in terms of acting skill.

    I haven't had a chance to read your review, but I saw you regard this highly. Having not seen the trailer helps. They really pushed the humor aspect. It was a very well-structured story, but if I'd known to expect indy romance I would've enjoyed it more.