Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Movie Review - Adventureland

I’d been wanting to catch this one during its initial theater run last spring but the stars weren’t aligned and I never got it in. Thankfully my long wait ended last night when I got to rent the newly released DVD. Before I start I should make sure to note that this movie is not about the Disney theme park version of Adventureland, though I’ve always thought that kind of movie would have a lot of promise. I could totally see the Jungle Cruise getting the “Pirates of the Caribbean” treatment. Out of place turn of the century Brits end up lost on some remote jungle river with a zany captain and encounter wild animals, natives, and bad jokes. (And a quick search of Wikipedia reveals that there actually IS a film in the works! Hopefully it won’t suck.)

What were we talking about? Oh yeah, Adventureland!

The film stars Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart, two college students stuck spending their summer working at a hokey Pittsburgh amusement park called Adventureland. Over the course of the summer they bond as friends and eventually love interests until everything comes crashing down in monumental fashion thanks to a few bad decisions. I don’t want to spoil much of the plot so I’ll leave it at that.

It’s a really sweet movie with great humor and lots of heart, plus you’ll definitely have an extra layer of appreciation for it as amusement park fans (especially if you’ve ever worked at one.)

Jesse Eisenberg is great channeling Michael Cera only in a way that you like him more than you figure him to be pathetic and Kristen Stewart is adorable. Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig steal the show as the park’s eccentric but caring owners, Bobby and Paulette. Ryan Reynolds also puts in a good turn as mechanic, wannabe rock star, and unwitting antagonist Mark.

The film shares a lot in common with “Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist.” Comparing the two, “Nick & Norah” probably had more laugh out loud moments and a more satisfying conclusion but “Adventureland” is far more realistic and, in my opinion, slightly more enjoyable.

If you’re a fan of the genre or are just looking for a good date/night in movie, this one is pretty perfect. The setting and tone are also perfect for this time of year, as the summer is coming to an end. Save it for the first night in September when it’s a little too cold to sit on the deck.

Also, for Disney fans, there’s a great tribute in the park office: a sign plainly visible by the door reads “Smile! You’re on stage.”

Overall Rating: **** 1/2

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