Wednesday, September 16, 2009


Adventureland is a great example of lots of great parts that don't work well together. Individually most of the scenes in Adventureland are charming, funny and well acted. However when put together the scenes don't work well enough to make a cohesive story or sustain the movie until the end. Characters that could have really complex and layered end up simply being there to move the film from one scene to the next.

This film is also a jumble of mistakes and bad decisions. I don't know if director Greg Mottola's success with Superbad went to his head or if he was too close to his own script but the problems with Adventureland are obvious when watching it so I'd think they would have been extremely obvious during the production.

Even the context of the characters is just off enough to take you out of the film. The movie is supposed to be post college but everyone in it looks and acts like they're in high school. It begins to feel like the original script was for a high school movie but the studio figured all the sex and drugs would upset people so it was changed to post college.

Adventureland tells the tale of Jesse Eisenberg (James Brennan) a young man who has planned every last detail of his life. Suddenly that life is thrown into turmoil when family financial issues threaten his Graduate School aspirations. Forced to come up with tuition money on his own Jesse takes a summer job at Adventureland, a broken down amusement park filled with all types of wacky characters. The summer of course ends up being the "summer of his life".

The first problem with the film is actor James Brennan who doesn't so much play Jesse Eisenberg as he does mimic actor Michael Cera (Cera was ironically the star of Mottola's Superbad). Brennan does such a great job of channeling Cera that I honestly thought it was the same actor for the first third. Then there's Ryan Reynolds who plays a scummy mechanic at the park for no real reason other than to be the bad guy when the script calls for it. He literally has nothing to do with the movie other than to be a catalyst for various things to happen to other characters.

Kristin Stewart does little more than her usual open-mouth-look-bored acting job and look really good in jean cut offs. Stewart usually looks like she's bored or irritated in every movie she's in but with Adventureland it's like she's not even there. The rest of the characters are unremarkable, almost cliche.

The ultra smart, sarcastic sad friend, the loud obnoxious comic relief, the ultra hot stupid girl who walks in to be a threat to a budding romance and then walks back out again. With the exception of the always great Bill Hader every character in this movie serves only to move the scenes along, that's it.

I was also confused why the movie was set in the 80s since it never really plays any part in the movie. Setting a film in the past only works when the era is an important backdrop to the movie. With Adventureland it feels like the only reason was so Mottola could pad the soundtrack with his favorite songs. Even small details such as Ryan Reynolds wardrobe or James Brennan's interactions with other actors, feel entirely too modern.

There are some great moments in Adventureland but nothing ever really catches on and midway through the movie boredom sets in. By the time the obvious conclusion plays out any vested interest you had at the start has long since drained away. With Superbad being so good and Adventureland being so blah the one thing this movie has proved is that Greg Mottola should focus on directing and leave the writing to somebody else.

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