PLOT: James Brennan is planning on moving ahead in life after college by taking on graduate school. But when financial hardship brings his hopes of going away to a screeching halt, he must find work to earn the money for himself. Luckily, the fine folks at a local theme park take him in and he joins the minimum wage working force. While there, he meets a girl that may very well be the love of his life. As the two start to connect, he finds that love is hard, and corndogs are harder. It looks to be one long summer for a guy just trying to make a better life for himself.
Greg Mottola really surprised me this time around. Dont get me wrong, Ive enjoyed his work immensely with films like THE DAYTRIPPERS and of course SUPERBAD. But when I started seeing the advertising for his latest film ADVENTURELAND, I thought it seemed like the same old, same old. The trailer for the film plays too close to his previous effort, including vulgar jokes and teen angst, this time set in a theme park. But when I finally saw the film, I found that instead of just going for the funny bone, he created a very sincere and honest coming of age story. This could be called the SAY ANYTHING for a new generation, as it relies heavily on a strong connection between the two main characters, James and Em (Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart). It was very easy to believe in this beauty and the beast story, thanks to a wonderfully written script by Greg himself
really, it is wonderful.
It is 1987, and James Brennan (Eisenberg) has his future all planned out. He has set his sights on furthering his education with the help of his parents. That is until they spring the news on him. It seems that their financial situation is not looking good, and that he will need to get a summer job if he wants to pay for school. And it is also suggested that another school, closer to home, might be a good idea. Tell me this is not a universal idea. Im guessing a number of you had to deal with this, especially if you wanted to avoid student loans. Lucky for James, the local theme park, Adventureland is hiring. And the parks managers, Bobby and Paulette (played by scene-stealing Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig) are more than welcome to give him his official Games t-shirt. You see, the cool job is to get a Rides t-shirt. But that is just this poor guys luck to get the crappy job, so yeah, his summer is screwed. That is of course, until he begins to fall for another troubled girl named Em (Stewart).
When a movie hits all the right notes, it is such a pleasurable experience. You know, if the music speaks to you and the atmosphere of the period is in sync, it becomes a truly special time at the theatre. It took a matter of seconds as the film begins with The Replacements and Bastards of Young. It certainly awakened my sense of nostalgia. Much like Say Anything, or DAZED AND CONFUSED, this story spoke to me and reminded me of why I like going to the movies. It is not a complicated story, but it is an honest one. There are similarities between this and a little film from the 1982 called THE LAST AMERICAN VIRGIN (which was based on a Israeli film called ESKIMO LIMON). While Virgin is far from perfect, it has one of the most touching and honest relationships surrounded by dick jokes and sex. While Adventureland didnt really have too much in the way of sex, it was a little more innocent in that regard, it did have a very believable relationship that almost everybody will be able to connect to. When James finds out a secret about another relationship that Em has, his actions are damn hurtful, but ultimately very real.
So much is good in Adventureland right down to the annoyingly overplayed Rock Me Amadeus trust me, that joke is extremely truthful if youve ever wanted to destroy your radio after the umpteenth time hearing a song. While the comedy is not terribly laugh out loud funny, it is not really supposed to be. The elements here offer up a very personal take on getting ready to move on in life, and finding those around who will accompany you on your journey. So with all the good, my biggest problem is not with the film itself, but with the marketing. The studio seems to be banking on the success of SUPERBAD, and this is really nothing like that film. Yes there is humor, but it is much more grounded in the dramatic arch of the film. I certainly laughed, but I was much more excited about the wonderful chemistry between the two main actors. This is a perfect date movie, but it is certainly not the kind of movie that the previews make it out to be. While it may help with the opening weekend box office, I think it may do more damage as audiences will be expecting something completely different.
I really loved Adventureland. I watched the trailers and I was expecting something else, but I certainly wasnt expecting something as warm and honest as it turned out to be. The music is especially solid, with songs by Crowded House, (Dont Dream Its Over), Lou Reed (Satellite of Love) and a couple of awesome Replacements tracks. It also helps that Mottola has a solid handle on the story and the way he wanted to tell it. He ditched most of the sex and outrageousness, without getting rid of the things that make it a believable teen flick. These kids smoke weed, screw around yet they really want to find something more than what life has to offer. Like every great teen comedy, there is a sense of pain and sorrow beneath the humor and it is especially heartfelt here. Like I said, Adventureland really is pretty wonderful. My rating 9/10 -- JimmyO
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