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A Great Adventure
on October 22, 2009
Finally! -- a movie to come out of the extended Apatow family that I can actually watch with my own family! Greg Mottola, who directed the hilarious Superbad, dug deep into his own teenage years for this and you can tell. While the humour is rooted in a similar place as Superbad (one character likes to pee on windows and punch people in the groin), this is much more a heartfelt movie than a comedy.
It is the summer of 1987. James (Jesse Eisenberg) is about to leave for Europe, before heading off to New York in the fall. However, family money problems have prevented the trip, and worse, he needs to get a summer job to pay for New York. Adventureland, a typical 80's amusement park, is the only place who'll hire him. His best friend leaves him a bag of joints to get him through the summer, and James is on his own.
Having gone to amusement parks in the summer of 1987 myself, I was impressed with how authentic Adventureland is. Everything from the cheesey "games games games" T-shirts, to the music, to Bill Hader's moustache (which is almost a character unto itself), and the rides really brought back memories. I am certain that my own local park had the "Music Express" ride, I can recall it very clearly. However, I have to confess that I didn't know anybody who was into Lou Reed back in 1987 myself, but I was in a slightly younger age group than these characters. I sure did remember Poison and Judas Priest. ("Breaking The Law" is the soundtrack to a very funny scene involving a chase through the park over a game that was fixed so it couldn't be won.) In addition, check out Paige Howard's hair. That hair is authentic. I know, because my sister has photos from the era to prove it.
It's at Adventureland (which James sullenly spins positive as "character building") where we meet some of the main characters. Em (Kristen Stewart) and Connell (Ryan Reynolds) befriend James early on, Em saving him from being knifed over a giant panda prize. Martin Starr's geeky Russian lit major is a highlight of the film. Martin Starr is a highlight of everything he's in. Here, he almost seems like a grown up version of Bill, his Freaks and Geeks character. At once he's funny, depressing, witty and loveable. Starr is a great, underrated actor.
Ryan Reynolds is the cool guy (but is he as cool as he appears?) and Kristen Stewart quickly becomes the love interest for James. This is the first time I've seen the much-hyped Kristen Stewart in a film. She is able to play a girl-next-door believably, but in emotional dramatic scenes with Eisenberg, she seemed much more cardboard. Good actress and definitely right for this role, but she still has some growing to do before she's great.
Bill Hader and the always funny Kristen Wiig play the park owners. Wiig delivers most of the humour in such a dry fashion that you have to admire her abilities. Hader is Hader. He's always funny, but here he seems to let his moustache and 80's shorts do the talking.
I really liked Adventureland. I've watched it 5 or 6 times so far since buying it. It's funny but I would hesitate calling it a comedy, especially when Mottola and Hader are involved. Calling it a comedy would give the wrong impression. This is a comedy-drama, and the drama part is equally as interesting as the comedy. If Adventureland had been a straight comedy, it would not have stood up against the competition. It was done right, with the right amount of feel and well written characters.
Pick up Adventureland and take a trip back to 1987. It's pretty much exactly the way I remember it.