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Movie Review - 'Adventureland'


Starring Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, and Ryan Reynolds
Directed by Greg Mottola
Rated R

adventurelandposter.jpg Without the crystalizing assistance of Roger Ebert, I still knew there was something about Adventureland I didn't like. More than just being a collection of characters we've seen in other, better movies, there was an underlying vibe in each of the major players that just seemed to miss the mark. And then the light went on for me.

In his review of 1987's One Woman or Two, Ebert wrote, "It is not funny when people in a movie walk around being dumb and making stupid mistakes, unless the people are named Curly, Moe, and Larry."

"If the characters are allegedly people of normal intelligence," he added, "their stupidity isn't funny, it's exhausting."

And that's where Adventureland gets shaky. We're meant to believe that these are all smart characters caught in unfortunate situations. But the fact is, they talk like smart people and act like idiots. It's 100 minutes of making amends for dumb decisions, and having one smart-ass thing after another to say about it.

What Ebert wrote is basically true, but there are exceptions where we condone smart characters who do stupid things. Usually in movies, the federal government is peopled by boobs, and in Coen Brothers comedies, it's generally accepted. However, there is a balance in those instances. Those movies almost always feature smart characters acting accordingly, as well.

But Adventureland is about a recent college graduate who could be going to Columbia in a couple of months, and while he works a thankless summer job at the Adventureland fun park, he sure doesn't act like an Ivy Leaguer.

James Brennan (Jesse Eisenberg) can't find a job when he returns home to Pittsburgh. With no other options, he takes a low paying gig running games at Adventureland. He makes fast friends with the rather nihilistic Joel (Martin Starr), who has all the intelligence James possesses, but probably not the motivation. His bosses, Bobby and Paulette (Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig), are completely oblivious to, well, everything.

All the Adventureland employees are starstruck by Mike (Ryan Reynolds), but not because he can fix all the rides. Mike is a musician who claims to have shared a stage with Lou Reed. Perhaps no one is as starstruck as Em Lewin (Kristen Stewart), and James is equally in awe of her. You can tell by the way he acts like Woody Allen whenever she's around.

The basic complications of Adventureland are of the he-loves-her-she-loves-the-other-guy variety. And writer-director Greg Mottola (Superbad) has found an interesting and amusing world to stir up those complications. But James is too smart to be here, Em is way too smart to keep a relationship going with a married man ten years older than she is, and Mike is too smart to believe it will all last.

The other overriding problem with the film is that it isn't terribly funny. It has its moments, but I certainly expected more laughs, or at least more organic laughs. I believe that's a result of smart characters not getting laughs when they make dumb decisions, but it's also a byproduct of this film being a little more seriocomic than trailers and commcercials would lead you to believe. And when it's funny, it's dumb humor in a movie that's trying to be smart.

I get the jokes, or at least, I get the punchlines. But Adventureland needs some different pieces in the setup.

Watch the Adventureland trailer

Reader Comments (2)

I think you were too generous with this one. By the time I figured it wasn't going to be a comedy, or even an indie comedy, I still couldn't get into the story nor care for the characters.

Saturday, April 4, 2009 | Unregistered CommentertheChony

The soundtrack for this movie is amazing!
You have to admit that =P

The performances merit some kudos as well. The script wasn't everything it could have been, and the plot was sort of a tourist trap at the box office, but the cast did a good job with what they had to work with.
Jesse Eisenberg and Michael Cera kind of are the same person though, which I'm not a big fan of. Its like when Christian Slater decided to rip off Jack Nicholsons speach pattern and voice.
I do prefer him over Cera, who is a little too...feminine for me? He's like a really skinny girl...with no boobs...

Anyway, I know I'll catch shit for it one day, but I did enjoy Adventureland, and I would like you to atleast raise the score 1 DDA. Its one of those movies that grows on you, like some sort of fungus. =)

Sunday, October 4, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterNick C.

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