Posted by: ianstrope | September 15, 2009

Review: Adventureland

2009 | Director and Writer: Greg Mottola (“Superbad,” “The Daytrippers”)

I will not apologize for enjoying the Hip-Rom-Coms of Kevin Smith, Noah Baumbach, Wes Anderson, or even some of the Apatowesque stuff. Sometimes you want to watch an mumbling idiot that seems like you and or your friends get with some girl whom he has no business getting with in the real world and, I don’t know, having an adventure. It’s escapism at its most juvenile (or maybe sophomoric) but whatever.

adventureland

When I first saw a trailer for this movie it looked just like that kind of thing. Set in 1987 I figured I’d like the soundtrack and some of the 80’s humor.

So what’s really the meat and potatoes of “Adventureland?” A recent graduate, Jessie Eisenberg (“The Squid and the Whale”), ready to go off to Columbia in the Fall to study journalism and become some kind of  romantic Dickensian travel log writer, finds all his hopes for a blissful European vacation dashed when his dad gets demoted. As such he needs to take up a crappy Summer job at the local Pittsburgh theme park, the titular Adventureland.

Quickly he makes friends with a monotone geek, Marin Starr (“Freaks and Geeks”) who manages to steal most of the scenes he is in, providing some humor in the form of that patented hip-com acerbic wit. The graduate also finds that both the park’s cute girl, Kristen Stewart (“Into the Wild”), and its hot girl seem to inexplicably be interested in spending time with him.

adventureland1

As the movie goes, on romantic dramedy ensues, and it is all pretty standard soap opera stuff for the most. I’d be fine with this if there was just more laughs, but unfortunately “Adventureland” is too meandering to bring the funny. I would say it was being self-indulgent in the forced way the bland lead gets with pretty girls and messes around getting stoned, reasonably free of consequences, but that would only make sense if there was more of an auteur behind the production. Instead it is just typical romanticizing of that all-too-terrible life of the suburbanite white-kid-in-his-20s who has high class problems.

Maybe I wanted too much from this movie. Maybe I wanted a romance that was more authentic, where the guy had to do more to earn the affections of the girl, or where the characters–most of whom are set up as if they will need to go through some adjustment during the story (the dad’s becoming a drunk , the girl has issues with her new step mom , the funny sidekick is utterly miserable in his “pragmatic nihilism”)–actually change. But all of this good stuff that can be both effectively dramatic and funny is abandoned so they can smoke weed and make out and talk about Lou Reed. I know those are the real potatoes of the Hip-Rom-Com but this movie hinted at meat and didn’t really deliver. For a cinematic carnivore like myself, that can lead to little more than disappointment.

Rating: Two and a Half of Five Stars

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