Adventureland Review
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Since I did some time in the advertising trenches, I can tell you from personal experience that advertising can sometimes be a bit…misleading. Take, for instance, the ads for the new comedy, Adventureland, which proudly declare that Adventureland is “from the director of Superbad.” Now, some might take that to mean that Adventureland is another outrageous, over-the-top teen comedy, while the only thing you should really gather from that statement is that both were somehow directed by Greg Mottola.

No matter what the ads (or the title) might suggest, Adventureland isn’t really outrageous, nor is it especially adventurous. Set in 1987, it’s the story of awkward college grad James Brennan (Jesse Eisenberg), whose big post-graduation summer in Europe is cancelled after his dad loses his lucrative job. So James returns home to Pittsburgh, where the only summer job he can get is at Adventureland, a theme park where, despite management’s warnings, the staff runs wild.

  
 
James immediately falls for a fellow games worker, poor little rich girl Em (Kristen Stewart), who’s secretly caught up in an affair with the park’s married maintenance guy, Mike Connell (Ryan Reynolds). But as James tries to “take it slow” with Em, he’s also tempted by park hottie Lisa P. (Margarita Levieva).

And so the summer passes, in a blur of pot and parties—and with all the depth and excitement of the park’s kiddie train ride.

You might think that a movie about a bunch of kids who spend their summer getting paid to hang out at an amusement park would be...well…amusing. Instead, every last character in Adventureland has something to brood about. James can’t go to Europe. His dad secretly drinks because he had to take a pay cut. Em hates her step-mom. Lisa P.’s dad is out of work. And, as a result, the film is one big downer, packed with slow, lingering close-ups of long, moping faces.

Though it does have a few amusing moments (most of which come from Martin Starr, who plays James’s brainy friend, Joel), Adventureland is a bland and lethargic film, with plain-vanilla characters and an all-too-familiar story about love, lust, and lies. And though it has all the hormones of Mottola’s Superbad, that outrageous comedy is nowhere to be found. Eisenberg could have been a lovably awkward loser (like pretty much any character played by Michael Cera), but he’s just too mopey. And SNL funnyman Bill Hader is shamefully underused.

It seems as though, in making Adventureland, Mottola tried to latch on to the recent success of hipster indies like Juno, which thrive on sulking and sarcasm. But instead of hip and witty, Adventureland is heavy and depressing. I kept wishing that someone would spike the park’s soda machine with Prozac, so everyone would stop their griping and enjoy their summer already. But not even the lively ‘80s pop music or Lisa P.’s bright ’80s wardrobe could bring some much-needed life to the film.

So don’t trust those crafty ad guys on this one. Adventureland isn’t the story of the best summer of one kid’s life; it’s the story of the most dismal summer vacation ever—and it’s quite possibly the mopiest comedy I’ve ever seen.


Blu-ray Review:
The two-disc Blu-ray release of Adventureland (which includes one Blu-ray disc and one digital copy disc) is, sadly, about as bland as the movie itself. Of course, there are the regular features: three short deleted scenes, a rather dull commentary track with Mottola and Eisenberg, and a making-of feature that covers everything from casting to locations without providing any particularly fascinating insights. There’s also a clever Song Selection feature, which lets you skip directly to various songs that are used in the movie (from “Rock Me Amadeus” to “Breaking the Law”).

In addition to the usual features, though, there are also a number of Blu-ray exclusives. If you didn’t see enough groin punches in the movie, you can see even more in Frigo’s Ball Taps. Or, with Lisa P.’s Guide to Style, you can learn more about ‘80s style (from an actress who doesn’t seem to know much about the ‘80s).

The disc’s most entertaining extra, though, comes in the Welcome to Adventureland features—a series of four classic-feeling Adventureland commercials and training videos. So if you have time for one feature after watching the movie (or if, after watching it, you could really use a laugh), be sure to check out the Adventureland employee training video, starring my favorite Adventureland character, Joel.

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