Sunday, April 5, 2009
“It was the worst job they ever imagined... and the best time of their lives.”
The poster for Adventureland itself is misleading; in bold letters, it boasts that the movie is from the director of Superbad. I actually didn’t care for Superbad, but it would lead one to believe this is going to be a gross out, fast paced, joke every 10 seconds comedy, which it isn’t. Bill Hader, Kristen Wigg, and Ryan Reynolds all promise potential for big laughs. Hader is funny, especially in a scene where he chases a man with a baseball bat, and then goes back to his task as if nothing happened. His funny moments are too few and far between. Wigg, who is the best thing to happen to "Saturday Night Live" in years, is completely underutilized and barely speaks in her few minutes on screen. Hader and Wigg's characters belong in a better, screwball comedy. Reynolds plays a completely phony douche bag, with none of his Van Wilder Charm. We don’t laugh with him or at him.
The tagline featured on the movie poster doesn’t really suit the film. Working in this amusement park is not “the worst job.” I definitely felt worse for Christina Applegate at her summer job cleaning out the grease traps and mopping the floor in the clown burger joint in Dont' Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead. And as far as the best time of their lives…the rest of their lives must be pretty weak.
The movie is set in the late ‘80s, which has no effect on the story except for some of the fashion (which is pointless since teenagers now wear ‘80s inspired crap) and featuring some obvious and a few forgotten ‘80s songs. James Brennan (Jesse Eisenberg) had plans to travel to Europe and go to graduate school at Columbia. His father’s demotion forces him to forget those plans and instead get a job to save money to move to New York. Having no real work experience, the only thing he can find is working the games at the amusement park with the locals. Once there, he quickly falls for Em (Kristen Stewart), who is sleeping with the married maintenance man (Reynolds). Throw in the hot girl, the childhood friend who regularly punches James in the balls, the nerdy, atheist, Jewish sidekick, and the cast is complete. The story is predictable right up to the end: realization, confrontation, rumors, breakdowns, and happy ending.
There are about 20 minutes of a decent film here, with many long, uninspired scenes filling in the gaps. Jesse Eisenberg is good, but he is too similar to Michael Cera, that I spent the whole time wishing that his character were played by Cera. Kristen Stewart is much better here than in Twilight, in which her performance convinced me she couldn’t act. The film could have been a lot funnier. Without the laughs, the story isn’t compelling or unique enough to make a good movie.