Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Movie Review: Adventureland

Rated: R

Website: Adventureland official site

Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Ryan Reynolds, Bill Hader, Kristen Wiig, Martin Starr

My Review: It’s hard to have a real opinion of a movie that tries so hard to accomplish so little. Adventureland isn’t really funny enough to be a comedy, it’s not earnest enough to be a drama, and though it’s set in the summer of 1987, it’s not kitschy enough to be a nostalgia piece (despite a running gag about the hit(?) tune “Rock Me Amadeus”). At best, it manages to be a lukewarm coming of age story where you root for the nerdy underdog hero. At worst, it’s a boring movie.

Jesse Eisenberg, channeling his inner Michael Cera, is convincingly dorky and awkward as James, a recent college grad whose summer plans of touring Europe are dashed when his parents can no longer give him the graduation money they promised. So he’s stuck at home in Pittsburgh where he takes a crappy summer job at the local amusement park Adventureland, where the games are rigged, the rides may or may not be up to code, and in the name of all that is holy, do not eat the corndogs. He becomes friends with his fellow lost soul coworkers and smitten with Em (Kristen Stewart), the cute girl he works with who is secretly having an affair with the older, and married, park handyman. You can probably figure out the rest of the plot on your own.

Adventureland seems to be trying to be the sort of meandering slice of young people’s life movie that Dazed and Confused and Empire Records are, but it falls short. None of the characters are particularly engaging; James is sweetly nerdy, but I have a hard time believing any girl would give him anything other than the “I like you like a brother” speech, and Em, while pretty, is so devoid of a personality I don’t know why James falls for her so hard and fast. Ryan Reynolds still looks way too young to play the skeevy older man who cheats on his wife, and the resident “hot girl” who is supposed to tempt James away from Em is neither hot nor tempting. Bill Hader is the best thing about the movie, as the negligent yet passionate park manager, and he steals every scene he appears in, which is precious few. Take all these thinly created characters, throw in a few scenes of binge drinking and pot smoking, and you have the latest flimsy movie about how hard and magical it is to be young.

Bottom Line: Adventureland is a completely forgettable movie that will probably be in the $5.99 DVD bin at Target in a few months. And even then I would suggest finding something more engaging to kill a Sunday afternoon with.

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