Adventureland – Blu-ray Review
By Frankie Dees Sep 4, 2009, 15:14 GMT
From the director of "Superbad" comes "Adventureland", a smart, witty comedy we can all relate to. When James Brennan (Jesse Eisenberg) has to cancel his dream summer vacation and make some money for grad school, the only job he can get is at Adventureland, a tacky amusement park where the games are rigged and the rides make you hurl. But it\'s where he meets Em (Kristen Stewart, "Twilight"), and his ...more
A enjoyable 80s set coming of age story that is fueled by a wide array of nicely selected pop tunes, ‘Adventureland’ has its fair share of puke and crotch gags but Greg Mottola (of ‘Superbad’ fame) has more on his mind this time around.
Mottola based this pic on his experiences working at a amusement park in Long Island (presumably in the 80s) - where a variety of bored and/or desperate characters go searching for a summer job to make little but learn valuable life lessons (ahh…reminds me of a lesson I learned at a high school job…never get drunk in a Donald Duck costume while waving down cars for a fireworks stand).
Greg Mottola’s clear doppelganger here is James Brennan (Jesse Eisenberg), an earnest, floppy-haired kid who takes life a bit too seriously. When his father gets demoted, money runs dry for his pre-college European trip with friends as well as grad school at Columbia and in one fell swoop learns that he can’t go to Europe and has to get a summer job to pay for school.
With no experience, he heads out with impressive SAT scores in hand but can only land a job at local amusement park, Adventureland, where he can’t even score a ‘Rides’ gig but instead has to slum it in the carnival ‘Games’ arena.
Run by the possibly well-meaning, hilarious husband-wife team of Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig, James isn’t quite enjoying himself but becomes the toast of the park when peeps find out he has a nice supply of weed.
James sets his eyes on the pretty but dysfunctional Em (Kristen Stewart of ‘Twilight’) – who is dealing with a crap home life due to a wicked stepmother. They develop a sweet will-they, won’t-they rapport but the plot thickens when we learn she is having an affair with the park’s handyman, local late-twenties musician legend Mike Connell (Ryan Reynolds) - who likes to regale teen girls about his stories of once playing with Lou Reed.
That James and Mike smoke pot together as James obliviously pours his heart out to him about Em further complicates things as well as a Catholic tease Lisa P. (Margarita Levieva), the park hottie, who takes an interest in James.
Other characters pop in and out like the nerdy Joel (Martin Starr) having to withstand blatant anti-Semitism in his dating life and Jame’s cousin who never misses an opportunity to punch James in the crotch.
Eisenberg (good in ‘The Squid and the Whale’) does a nice job handling a somewhat one-note role with Kristen Stewart always charming as the self-assured if whacked-out girl next door type (essentially the same role she played in ‘Into the Wild’). Ryan Reynolds is refreshingly low-key here despite his heavy toll on the plot and Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig get a few scenes to really shine in.
Set to a great 80s soundtrack that really sets a time and place with music by everybody from ‘The Replacements’ and ‘The Cure’ to ‘Expose’, a funny subplot concerning Falco’s ‘Amadeus’ and the perfectly placed bittersweet romantic ‘Don’t Dream It’s Over’ by Crowded House, the music will play a big part in making you realize just what this movie was made for: hearts are broken, lessons learned and the age old circle of downright miserable lives of youth continues.
‘Adventureland’ is presented with a 1080p 1.85 AVC encode and it looks pretty dang good in high –def. Color and detail is great and being shot on film gives the film an appropriately period look with just a slight layer of grain. The DTS-HD Master Aud track is also quite good presenting Yo La Tengo’s lively score as well as the constant stream of songs.
Special Features include an audio commentary from writer/director Greg Mottola and star Jesse Eisenberg and it’s a fun track that consists of an easy rapport and consistently funny stories and anecdotes.
A couple minutes of ‘Deleted Scenes’ that are not worth much, a 17 minute ‘Making of’, ‘Frigo’s Ball Taps’ is pretty self-explanatory as is ‘Lisa P’s Guide to Style’. ‘Welcome to Adventureland’ are fake promos for the theme park and a digital copy finishes things off.
Some great Blu-ray specs add to a simple, understated coming of age love story that may not be as funny as ‘Superbad’ but works all the same. Not necessarily exceptional in any one area, the solid cast, great soundtrack and well captured time and place of the eighties will make this a nostalgic trip worth taking.