Writer/Director Greg Mottola's most popular work may be with the 2007 hit Superbad, but there's another film of his that I hold in just as high a regard. Adventureland is a coming-of-age dramedy set in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania during the Summer of 1987, where a newly graduated young man is forced to work at a low-quality theme park to pay for college. This is one of those films that makes me feel good every time that I watch it. I first saw it at the drive-in (some actually still exist) by myself, which honestly helped to put things into a single person's perspective. Think of this as a more intimately set, 80's version, of Dazed and Confused, but with less partying. The soundtrack is what makes it feel that way. With mostly offbeat tracks from the likes of Lou Reed, David Bowie, The Cure, The Replacements, INXS, The Velvet Underground, and a bunch more, the songs stand out to make Adventureland a unique experience. The songs set the tone during every scene, and truly pulls me into the many moments of teen awkwardness.
As with Superbad, Mottola is able to create sincerely written characters that never come off as fake. There are some fake people in this, but it's their insecurities that are exposed, and not the signs of bad writing. Jesse Eisenberg (Zombieland) as James, conveys the fears of being young and transitioning into adulthood, like he's really going through it. He makes it easy to empathize with him. As we go along with him, we get to witness and experience the variables that come along with relationships, whether they are romantic or platonic. Even the likes of emo-depressed Kristen Stewart (Twilight), fits here. She gives us the insight of someone who's not a bad person, yet who's stuck in a destructive pattern. Her and Eisenberg's chemistry was established here long before they were in 2015's American Ultra. Though fairly limited, the supporting cast keeps things interesting for Eisenberg and the viewer. Even they get proper substance as characters. Without the likes of Martin Starr (Freaks and Geeks), Ryan Reynolds (Deadpool), Matt Bush (The Goldbergs), Margarita Levieva (Knights of Badassdom), and Wendie Malick (Hot in Cleveland) to spice things up, this movie would not have been as memorable to me. What grounds Adventureland and keeps things fun, is the short but valuable appearances of Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig (both in The Skeleton Twins). As the take-no-bullshit owners of the theme park, their moments relieve the tension set up by Eisenberg's relationship drama.
Highs- Frigo's nad attack!, Hader's up to bat, Falco's "Rock Me Amadeus" being played too much, and the perfect lovey dovey ending.
Lows- Overall hard to find but, the relationship stuff takes center stage when the friendship stuff could've gotten a little more attention.
When this movie ends with INXS' rarely played "Don't Change", it always brings a smile to my face. Not many films can make you feel fully satisfied when they end. For me, this one does. It's a damn shame that it failed at the box office, since this is better than most of the movies I've seen since (2009). Adventureland comes highly recommended for those who haven't seen it. And for those who have; Watch it again!
Rating- 8.5 out of 10
R | 1h 47min | Comedy, Drama, Romance | 3 April 2009 (USA)
In the summer of 1987, a college graduate takes a 'nowhere' job at his local amusement park, only to find it's the perfect course to get him prepared for the real world.
Director: Greg Mottola
Writer: Greg Mottola
Stars: Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Ryan Reynolds
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