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Adventureland

June 3, 2010

Adventureland

This film gets the unfortunate labeling a teen comedy.  In a world of films like Superbad being the standard, the subtle humor and drama blended together don’t match up the to raunchy expectations for this film.

Set in the summer of 1987, the story is about James Brennan, a college graduate who’s father has lost his job because of alcoholism.  Gone are Brennan’s plans for a Europe trip that summer with a college buddy, and fading is the likelihood that he’ll be able to go to grad school.  He takes a summer job at an amusement park, Adventureland, where he spends the rest of his summer.  The story then delves into some funny moments, but it is really about the development of Brennan’s character along with the relationships he develops with Em, Lisa P, Mike Connell, and Joel.

Jesse Eisenberg stars in this film as Brennan.  He and Michael Cera have this awkward sweet boy persona that shows up in every film that they do.  His  work since then in an action comedy Zombieland even has that same feel.   You feel sorry for the kid because he doesn’t have it all together and that is the type of role that Eisenberg is made for playing, the slightly awkward college kid.  Kristen Stewart stars opposite of him as Em, a somewhat out of control and messed up coworker of his.  She has a very bleak outlook on life and is almost overly dramatic but still less overly dramatic than in Twilight.  Bill Hader, Matt Bush, and Martin Starr provide most of the comedy in this film.  Hader is just absurd and Bush provides much of the physical comedy in this film.  Starr has a bigger role as his character, Joel, becomes a good friend of Brennan throughout the film.  He has a lot of great lines in the film many of them very sarcastic and intelligent.  A subtle type of humor that films of this alleged genre aren’t supposed to have.  Margarita Levieva plays the girl, Lisa P, who everyone wants to go out with.  A beauty who seems like the girl next door.  Levieva is a good actress and in this role she doesn’t get a ton of screen time, but she plays her character very well.  Ryan Reynolds is probably the biggest name (well, maybe Stewart if you are a 14 year old girl) in this film.  He plays the guy who is too cool for his own good.  He has swagger and talks about everything amazing that he has done earlier in his life even though he just repairs the rides when they break down now.  He is supposed to rub you the wrong way, and he does a very good job of it.

This film does a good job of creating the eighties.  With the greatest hits of the eighties playing in the background and the poor style choices of the eighties on full display, this film just seems right.  Greg Mottola, the director of Superbad which is why the two are so closely compared, does a good job with this film.  He takes it on in a different way (and he wrote this one as well as directed it).  This isn’t the romp/last party before college.  This is after college, this is when real life is about to set in.  Even with grad school in Brennan’s future, he has to be more serious.  And Mottola does a good job of creating this more subtle teen-angst (or college-angst as the case may be) comedy.

I understand why many people didn’t like it.  I’m thankful I didn’t see it in theaters and had heard some about it before going to see it.  If I had been expecting to see Superbad after college, I would have been very disappointed.  But knowing what type of film it was, I enjoyed it a lot.

Entertainment Grade: B+

Critical Grade: B+

Overall Grade: B+

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