“That was a whole corndog”: Adventureland

I am not, nor have I ever been, a teenage boy.

I  feel like that is a prerequisite to really liking the movie Adventureland.  I didn’t come of age with the help of my misfit friends whom my parents hated.  I never got my heart broken, drank too much, and then crashed a car that left nothing injured but some shrubbery.  I never had a shitty job that made me count every penny I earned in order to justify the two more months I would be working there.  Most of all, I never liked Kristin Stewart.  Despite all of that, the movie was still pretty okay. 

“‘Pretty okay?!'”  you must be asking yourself.  “What a pansy of a noncommittal answer, Deanna.  Is that really the way you want to start off your first review?  Good luck with this blogging thing.”

To that I say 3 things:  1) why is my interpretation of you so judgmental?  I’m in charge of what I think you say.  Why would I do that to myself?  2)  Yes, that is how I want to start my first review.  It’s just that kind of a movie.  What did I expect?  A pretty okay movie, that’s what.  3) It’s actually not noncommittal.  I am fully committed to my opinion of this movie’s okayness.

Adventureland is about college graduate James Brennan (Jesse Eisenberg) getting a shitty summer job at a shitty amusement park in order to save up enough money to vaca in Europe and move to NYC.  As is the case with all shitty jobs, there are a bunch of seedy/quirky characters that create a superficial level of interest.  The other main characters actually are three-dimensional, though, and they are the love interest, Em Lewin (Kristin Stewart), and the guy she’s doing, Mike Connell (Ryan Reynolds).  I don’t need to tell you the plot at this point.

Jesse Eisenberg’s character is really cliched, but he makes the oft-overdone “young man coming-of-age” his own.  When he confronts Stewart’s character in the middle of the street, it’s obvious he’s more than just a Micheal Cera/Andy Samberg-hybrid:  they wish they could act as well as him.

Ryan Reynold’s character is interesting, flawed, charming, and sort of a prick, and he plays it all very well.  His very last scene hits the perfect note of reminding the audience (and Eisenberg’s character) of what a real-life fake looks like.

Kristin Stewart is terrible and makes the singular facial expression she knows while purposefully messing up her hair to make it look accidentally mussed.  Kristin Wiig’s and Bill Heder’s characters (the inept bosses) are an out of place SNL skit.  Some other unimportant “establishing the setting/tone” stuff happened with other unimportant characters.  About 20 minutes into it you realize the film actually takes place in 1987, providing a few obvious laughs.  I honestly don’t even remember the ending.  Oh, wait.  It just came back to me.  That’s how memorable it is.

It’s a solidly okay movie.  It’s not a clever as Juno.  It’s not as funny as Superbad.  It’s not as heartfelt as Knocked Up.  It’s not as 80s as The Wedding Singer.  It is, however, more real than most other generic teen guy movie.  The main character gets knocked down and kicked around a lot, and while he does stand up and brush himself off by the end, he is aware that the world sucks a little bit.

If you have two hours sometime in about a year when Adventureland inevitably gets modified for your television and is shown on VH1’s Movies That Rock, you might not want to change the channel.  Unless reruns of The Office are on.  Those are somehow always great…

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