Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Ryan Reynolds
Costarring: Bill Hader, Kristen Wiig, Martin Starr
Times Watched: 2
Genre: Comedy / Dramedy
Rotten Tomatoes / Metacritic Score: 88% / 79
Road To Ownership: I caught this movie in theatres and had such happy vibey feelings about it I bought it previously viewed afterwards.
The Plot: Jesse Eisenberg’s James is a recent college grad with big plans to spend the summer in Europe before heading off to grad school at Columbia with his fellow academic pals. The hitch? His dad has taken a pay cut, and suddenly James is hung out to dry. After years spent in his ivory tower, James discovers he has no employable skills, until he decides to suck it up and take a job at Adventureland, a cheesy local theme park. There, James meets the enigmatic Em (Kristen Stewart), makes endless connections via his stash of joints, and does what he has to do to make his dreams come true after a summer from hell.
The Good & The Bad: Watching this movie for the second time last night, I felt the same way I did about it the first time. This is a movie that is pretty light on plot, but heavy on vibe. If ‘Best Pictures’ awards were given away for movies that can evoke a certain vibe and emotion to the nth degree, then Adventureland would take the cake. Although I haven’t worked at a theme park post-college in the 1980s myself, there is something weirdly nostalgic, familiar, and relatable about this movie, the characters, and the experiences they share. I guess it’s the idea of being on the cusp of adulthood, and having one last hurrah before seriousness sets in. By the end of the movie you feel like one of the gang.
The theme park setting definitely contributes to this, as much of the humour in the movie comes from encounters at the park, plus it sets up unlikely camaraderie between the characters were they in high school, college, or ‘the real world’. Despite how well the movie works at creating this slightly wacky commune of young adults, it does have its flaws. The characters are never quite as pushed as they could be. Which isn’t a terrible thing, because people never are quite as a OTT as movies tend to make them, but for example – Frigo isn’t as funny as the movie probably wants him to be, Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig’s characters seem slightly too zany and wink wink next to the regular cast, and Ryan Reynolds and Kristen Stewart’s whole thing felt a little uneven.
Despite being light on plot and having a kind of sucky (although semi-realistic) ending, this movie is heavy on genuineness, sentiment, and real life humour, which makes it worth watching (and owning). Jesse Eisenberg shows great comedic chops and makes seriousness sexy. Kristen Stewart works the angry but hopeful girl angle well. Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader provide some wacky carnival humour (although at times it veers into cheesy). Ryan Reynolds fulfills the role of hot guy who peaked too early perfectly. And all of the other characters fill their roles perfectly - hot chick 'Lisa P' is the perfect mixture of normal looking but hot by theme park standards. Fellow nerd in arms Joel is good at presenting a less rosy view of the world. And all the other characters you catch glimpses of play their roles well and help strengthen this colourful but believable cast.
Best Scene: Tough call as the entire movie is a nice, big flowing experience. I like all the stuff at the theme park though, particularly the references to ‘Amadeus Amadeus!’ Post-weed cookies is also fun.
Worst Scene: Frigo peeing on the window? Not funny and not necessary. The dude is like Stifler circa ‘American Wedding’. More retarded than relatable.
Best Character: I quite like Jesse Eisenberg’s cleverly nerdy James Brennan. It’s a little Michael Cera but with a stiff, confident upper lip.
Worst Character: I’m going to have to go with Frigo here. His juvenile sense of humour doesn’t really mesh with how clever the rest of the film is. That's two movies in a row where the court jester is a big fail.
Soundtrack of our Lives: Great soundtrack throughout. It doesn’t do 80’s in an extreme way (ditto on the wardrobe department, big kudos) and shows there were some people who weren’t into the extreme use of electro-synth, as most OTT 80’s movies are.
If You Like This You’ll Like: Juno, Whip It (movies that are also great for the vibe)...and I know I'm missing something else. I'll add more later :)
FINAL GRADE: 3.5/5