Sunday, April 12, 2009
The best movie experiences are the ones that deliver way beyond your expectations. I had no real interest in seeing this film (it was a tossup with Sunshine Cleaning), but damn am I glad I did. Reviews have been mixed, but Adventureland is 100% fun and earnest. Hilarious and heartfelt. It’s far more mature than the other Apatow-like counterpoints filling the screens.
It’s 1987. James (Jesse Eisenberg) most land a summer job to help pay for his Colombia grad school tuition in the fall. After a few failed prospects, James ends up at Adventureland, a barely functioning theme park that loops the same silly songs over and over (cue “Rock Me Amadeus”).
James soon finds his stride, coming to terms with his mindless job as a game worker, and meeting several unique people. Most exciting of which is Em (Kristen Stewart), a smart, mature girl who takes an instant liking to James. Other employees include a pipe-smoking intellectual with a soft heart, an annoying over caffeinated ball-buster, a ditsy hottie, a sexy handyman (a miscast Ryan Reynolds) and the park owners, played hilariously by Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig.
Every time they are on screen, Hader and Wiig steal the show. Hader (one of the cops in Superbad) uses his simpleton characterization to grab lots of laughs. But it’s Wiig (the awkward E! marketing woman from Knocked Up) that’ll have you choking on laughs. It’s time for these two to get their own movie.
Writer/director Greg Mottola gets more mature with this autobiographical gem than he did with his Superbad. Honestly, I’ve been getting tired of all the dick jokes, the grotesque amount of alcohol consumption, the constant need to get laid that is taking over teenaged-themed film. In Adventureland, James handles his virginity with shy confidence, not obsessively dwelling on it.
I’ve heard some criticism that James should’ve been played by Michael Cera instead of Eisenberg. I couldn’t disagree more. While I find Cera funny, his acting is always the same, that awkward one note delivery without much emotion. James is a character with strong emotional arches, and Eisenberg fills those arches out well. Great in Roger Dodger and The Squid and the Whale Eisenberg gives James more depth that I would’ve expected.
Kristen Stewart should be the “next big thing”. She’s the most talented actress her age, with a disarming maturity that ignites the screen. She brings her usual enigmatic flare to Em, a flawed mixed up girl. Stewart, great in Into the Wild should get her own starring role soon (I’m not counting Twilight, where the book acted as the main attraction).
Adventureland really impressed me. I laughed out loud, I was emotionally invested in the characters and I truly cared about what would happen. It has its faults, sure, but simply put: Adventureland is the best American film of 2009… so far. Enjoy the ride. A-