Directed by Greg Mattola
Starring Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Ryan Reynolds
Adventureland comes to us from the director of Superbad, as the box proclaims. Using this information for a slogan is probably a really bad idea because it infers a certain kind of film which Adventureland most definitely is not. Superbad was an over the top comedy where Adventureland strives for something much more subtle.
James is just out of college and preparing for graduate school in New York. When he discovers that his parents are going through financial problems and can’t afford to send him to graduate school, he gets a summer job to put money back to pay his own way. It’s 1985, so what does he do? He gets a job at the local amusement park. At the amusement park, he becomes involved with a motley crew, not Motley Crue of course, of folks that all appear to be of drinking age but it’s hard to tell. Are these people also prepping for graduate school? Some of them seem as if they are of college age and act that way but then still act like they have to secretly score booze here and there. The character development here is very uneven because you can’t get a feel if these are college grads, college attendees, or high school age. It’s important information to know in order to make sense of several scenes in the film.
This is a very typical coming of age story all the way to the final scene. James meets a girl named Emily who he falls for fairly quickly. She likes him too but she has problems that hold her back from jumping full on into a relationship with James. She chooses instead to toy with him, appearing to commit to their relationship sometimes and saying that they have to slow down other times. The director attempts to make Emily a melancholy and complex character but it just never comes off as much more than a rich girl who doesn’t like her Dad’s second wife.
Not only is Adventureland overly predictable, but it’s also not funny. As I previously mentioned, the film was never meant to be a slapstick film similar to Superbad but there are some obvious points in this film that were supposed to be hilarious and they just weren’t. Some of the secondary characters are fun and they offer a break from the chemistry free blandness that is the romance that dominates the film. Jesse Eisenberg is actually quite good in the film but unfortunately his love interest is Kristen Stewart, who is as interesting as watching paint dry. Also, Ryan Reynolds is irritatingly flat throughout the film. He’s little more than a plot device instead of an actual character.
The complaints keep on coming when it comes to the period nature of this film. It’s a real challenge to truly immerse a story into a period setting. The successful film doesn’t feel gimmicky, it feel truly immersed in the era. The failure feels painfully obvious with constant little jabs at the era and characters that don’t fit the time and set pieces and music that feels forced into place. Adventureland is a film that never feels legitimately of the 80’s. There’ll be random sets and even shots of TV from the 80’s, but it never really works. Hair styles look modern with only influences of the 80’s rather than actual 80’s styles. The funny thing is that the film actually features some decisions that feel a bit 70’s. Now it’s understandable that there would be some holdover from the 70’s in 1985, but bringing it to this film just confuses the era a bit. Films that do a really good job of embracing the era in which they are set are Almost Famous and Dazed and Confused just to name a couple. Finally, the music often doesn’t work very well in the film either. It’s all from the era, but songs that are picked feel just a little too timeless to sell 1985. Again, Almost Famous is a film that truly uses music the right way.
There’s a lot to disappoint in with this film. With all of the complaints, the worst offense has to be the truly formulaic and predictable main story. Greg Mattola not only directed this film but also wrote the story. Mattola previously wrote a solid little story called The Daytrippers which he also directed so I know he can do better than what he did with Adventureland. Fans of the super standard coming of age romantic formula may still find things to enjoy here. There are also a few standout scenes and some of the less important characters in the film are fun to watch.
The AVC 1.85:1 presentation here is very solid. Colors come off realistic including skin tones and all of the vibrant colors of the theme park. There are tons of opportunities for things to go wrong in the presentation with all of the neon lighting but it always holds strong. The only problems are that there’s a bit of grain here and there and some of the darker scenes and shadows drop detail a bit. Overall this is a solid presentation though.
The 5.1 DTS HD presentation ehre is subtle and effective throughout the film’s running time. Songs blast from the speakers clean and crisp, dialogue is properly centered and separated, and ambient sounds immerse the viewer in the world of the film. Sub woofer use is minimal throughout the film though even with some good opportunities to blow it out here and there.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
The two discs, the blu-ray and the digital copy, are packaged in a slim amaray case with a slipcover featuring the same cover that’s inside the case. Honestly the case doesn’t fit the era. It almost has a 70’s flavor again and some of the faces just look weird.
The feature audio commentary with director Greg Mattola star Jesse Eisenberg kicks off with way too much joking around and no real information about the making of the film. The two of them do eventually settle down and share some tidbits from behind the scenes though.
Just My Life: The Making of Adventureland is the official making of featurette and while it is full of sound bites and marketing speak there are some bits of good information here and there. The featurette also includes some behind the scenes footage.
Frigo’s Taps is the first of too many silly bits on this disc that don’t enhance the viewing of the film at all. With that said, some of this one, unlike the others is actually funny. Basically, the video is a demonstration of the proper way to smack a guy in the crotch. Lisa P’s Guide to Style features the actress still playing the snotty character from the film discussing her hair, her clothes, and her makeup. This one’s dumb and irritating rather than funny. Welcome to Adventureland is a couple of promo spots for the park shot 80’s style. These are mildly amusing. The Employee Orientation Video is a training video for working in the park and it really tries too hard to be funny. Drug Policy is another goofy video covering the drug policy in the park. This one’s again mildly amusing.
Other than that there are just a few deleted scenes and a theatrical trailer. Unfortunately there’s just not much substance here. Most everything is just silly or marketing speak.
I appreciate that Adventureland wants to offer a deeper character in Emily, but the actress isn’t good enough to carry it off and honestly she isn’t written deep enough to matter. This film wanted to be more important than actually ends up being and that’s a shame. Adventureland isn’t a film you’ll hate, it’s just one you won’t remember down the road.
Overall (Not an average) 5.5/10
The Movie 5/10
The Video 8/10
The Music 8.5/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 6/10
Overall (Not an Average) 5.5/10