"Adventureland" worth the ride

April 6, 2009, midnight | By Sophia Deng | 11 years, 6 months ago

A comedy chock full of thrills

First came "Superbad." Now, director Greg Mottola is back with "Adventureland," a comedy that is not as outrageously funny as his previous hit, but certainly more charming and soulful. "Adventureland" is not just mindless comedy. The quirky characters, solid acting and wry yet touching script make the film surpass unoriginal coming-of-age movies.

It's the summer of 1987, and college graduate James Brennan (Jesse Eisenberg) is pumped for his promised trip to Europe. But when his father's paycheck becomes financially sticky, James's dreams of freedom and European alcohol and women are replaced with corndogs, game booths and giant pandas. Although his employment at Adventureland, Pittsburgh's local amusement park, is less than ideal, James uncovers the best time of his life when he makes extraordinary friends at the park, including the pessimist Joel (Martin Starr), crotch-kicking Frigo (Matt Bush) and moody Em (Kristen Stewart).

The humor in "Adventureland" is a perfect mixture of wit and "Superbad"-esque crude entertainment. When Joel gives James a tour of Adventureland, he hilariously points out how no one can win the games in Adventureland due to slight modifications of the games, such as a bent basketball hoop or glued-on hats. The understated humor provides a balance with the film's cruder jokes, which are even funnier. James's awkward refusal of saying "intercourse" for "sex" and Frigo's crotch blows to James, provide immediately laugh-out-loud sequences that never lose steam.

The solid acting in "Adventureland" also contributes to the humor and fun. Eisenberg plays the intelligent but sexually awkward geek perfectly, as he shuffles clumsily and becomes tongue-tied around every girl he encounters. Always speaking in an apathetic monotone, Starr makes viewers grow fond of dorky Joel, the resident cynic and glum nerd. Unlike her amusing co-stars who provide comic relief, Stewart effectively portrays the film's moments of seriousness and depth. With her cool manner and raw emotions, she makes the conflicted Em, who has to deal with her wicked stepmother and a secret affair, come to life.

"Adventureland" works so well because of its charming paradoxes. The film combines comedy with emotion, making viewers simultaneously happy and sad. This fresh approach to a coming-of-age movie - usually entirely comedic or entirely dramatic - makes James's journey of growing up heartwarming and delightful. The film's older setting, yet younger actors and jokes also appeal to both young and old viewers alike. Those who grew up in the '80s will feel nostalgically for the days when they had bizarre jobs, while the younger generation will appreciate the trials and tribulations surrounding the lives of the film's characters.

Mottola's choice of music additionally complements the film skillfully. The soundtrack, comprised mainly of indie rock band Yo La Tengo songs, gives a retro and laidback feel that represents the '80s environment and the emotions of the film's characters as they switch between being depressed and cheerful. While the storyline drives the music, the music also effortlessly carries the film's vibe on its shoulders.

The only problem with "Adventureland" is the segments that drag on too long. There are too many times when the story fails to move forward - stuck in James's contemplation about his feelings of Em or his life. However, this issue fails to detract from the sound acting, great storyline, eclectic music and witty banter. Although the film is not as uproarious as "Superbad," the subtle humor and emotions carry more gravity and meaning compared to its sister film. After watching "Adventureland," viewers will come out realizing the hurdles in life and love. Step into "Adventureland" - this movie is "Supergood."

"Adventureland" (107 minutes) is rated R for language, drug use and sexual references. Playing at all area theaters.

Sophia Deng. Sophia was the Managing Editor of SCO during the 2009-2010 school year. When not laughing or chilling to OWL CITY, Sophia can be found oil painting, playing volleyball, doing sudokus and sprinkling happy fairy dust over everyone. She loves folk/pop/electronica indie, Harry Potter, Burt's Bees … More »

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