Apr 5, 2009

My Trip To Adventureland

A good comedy is hard to find. They're usually too stupid, too gross, or both. Sometimes they're SO stupid you can't help but love them, but I long for a different breed of comedy. One that worries more about being a good movie and less about how many jokes they can squeeze into a given scene. I can't think of the last genuine comedy (outside of Wes Anderson) that didn't let "being a comedy" get in the way of being a good movie. Adventureland is one for that list.

I knew I'd be seeing Adventureland from the moment the trailer hit and I laid eyes on Bill Hader's epic mustache. I didn't like director Greg Mottola's previous film, Superbad, and was a little worried that Adventureland would be Superbad...but with rides! I was relieved to find a deeper, more sincere story waiting for me.

James (Jesse Eisenberg) has just finished college and is planning on grad school in New York. His plans fall through, however, when his dad looses his position at work and ends up taking a substantial wage cut. The family moves to Pittsburgh and James is reduced to finding a summer job. It seems like his only option is Adventureland, an amusement park well past its prime. He makes friends out of circumstance (just like in any work environment) and they spend most of their time getting high or drinking beer. Most of their day to day interactions are pretty mundane and everyone thrives on the next bit of gossip just to keep their sanity. James falls for a fellow "games" operator, Emily (Kristen Stewart), who seems to like James, but has her own unresolved baggage.

Let's stop for a second.

Everything I've described to you is as basic as a movie can get. There's nothing unique, no shtick. Adventureland takes all of the boy meets girl and coming of age stereotypes and makes them work with rich characters and situations that you actually care about. You can look at the nerdy, unappreciated Joel (Martin Star) and feel like you know him, or at least know someone like him. Or maybe, you are Joel. Every character feels this way, even the ones that are there mainly for laughs, like Bill Hader's mustache. But they never feel forced. No one feels out of place even though EVERYONE is out of place, because that's where twenty-somethings spend most of their time. I don't want to say much about the movie because there isn't much to say other than I liked it and I hope you see it and you like it too. I'm tired of movies that feel restricted to their genre. This is a comedy, this is a drama...can't it just be a movie. I just want more good, real movies that can draw out real emotion. Like this one.

Did I laugh out loud and slap my knee? Not once. But what's more important, those few big laughs you get because Oh, that Will Ferrell is just so darn silly, or something that, maybe only once or twice, really made you smile. What a great feeling.


  1. I liked it a lot. It had that magic balance between laughs and sincerity.

    It's bizarre how much Jesse Eisenberg is like Michael Cera. I think he's a better actor, but his comedic timing is identical.

    Other slightly related awesome news: Arrested Development Movie.

  2. Also, I wanna make it with Kristen Wiig.