Adventureland – Review

There’s a certain sub-genre of teen comedy currently emerging that is perhaps spawned by the likes of Juno, but – in my opinion – more clearly influenced by the likes of Empire Records or – going even further back – Slacker, and it’s a very quiet, downbeat and lo-fi type of comedy. Earlier this year we had Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist that somehow fused Empire Records with Scorcese’s After Hours – but threw in some pratfalls here and there to pad out the trailer – and was buoyed by the absolutely charming, heart melting performance of Kat Dennings, and Michael Cera on good form, to create something watchable yet surprisingly small scale. Now we’ve got Adventureland that makes sure the words ‘From the creators of Superbad‘ can clearly be seen on the poster, but this film is a very different affair, much more similar in attitude to writer/director Greg Mottola’s earlier indie gem The Daytrippers.

The Squid and the Whale‘s Jesse Eisenberg plays James Brennan, just graduated and looking forward to a trip with friends around Europe. However his family’s finances crumble and he winds up working at the titular theme park. There he falls for the troubled Em (played by Kristen Stewart) and generally hangs around dealing with the park’s grumpy clientele or drinking. The film is surprisingly heavy on the drama with Stewart especially impressing in some scenes that set her in good stead for her upcoming performance as punk rock idol Joan Jett in The Runaways. Also Freaks and Geeks alumnus Martin Starr delivers an appealing turn as pipe-smoking co-worker Joel, balancing off-beat charm with laughs a tad better than the film’s lead. Eisenberg is capable of leading the film, but his character comes off as somewhat unlikable at times, to an extent that he’s never really ‘punished’ for mistakes he makes and it’s here – in some of the plot’s neater contrivances – that the film sits uneasily.

With some characters taking very broad strokes and certain moments feeling a touch out of place the tone of the movie is, at times, at odds with its general restraint, and whilst some characters produce big laughs from the audience – especially Bill Hader’s park manager – they often only serve to heighten the film’s quieter moments in an awkward fashion. It’s not that Adventureland is particularly bad, it is a watchable and enjoyable movie, it’s just that with two tones – the aforementioned lo-fi teen comedy vying up against something a bit more Superbad – it’s a little hard to really ease into the film without finding yourself getting a tad restless.

Adventureland is out in the UK on 11 September 2009.

© BRWC 2010.

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Alton loves film. He is founder and Editor In Chief of BRWC.  Some of the films he loves are Rear Window, Superman 2, The Man With The Two Brains, Clockwise, Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, Trading Places, Stir Crazy and Punch-Drunk Love.



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