Posted by: Dr P | August 11, 2009

Adventureland

I’ve become a little bit obsessed with puns and particularly bad jokes in recent weeks – what’s that, I hear you cry, how is that any different to normal? Well, dear reader, the recent and quite spectacular launch of goatcompare.com has ensured a steady diet of atrocious animal-related mirth and punnery – and thanks to those of you who have already signed up, the silliness keeps on coming. It was against the backdrop of such nonsense that “Adventureland” hit the big screens, touted as another movie along the lines of Knocked Up and Superbad.

Big G and I were giggling like adolescent schoolgirls at the thought of completely silly antics, and yet 2 hours later we emerged hugely entertained but for an entirely different reason – this is a movie with real heart and soul, and not just a laugh out loud jokefest.

OK, rewind. Let’s set the scene. It’s 1987. Our movie’s main character, James (Jesse Eisenberg), is a rather nerdy, academically gifted student, on the verge of a move to Columbia. However his parents have hit upon financial troubles, and so not only is his chance of going to a top university receding, he is also forced to put on hold his trip round Europe with his rich friend. Desperate to make some money, James unsuccessfully applies for a whole range of terrible jobs (hilariously touting his SAT scores as a reason why he should drive tractors and the like, as opposed to having any experience) before finally being accepted at “Adventureland”, a typical rundown American small town theme park. Alton Towers it is not …

Despite being thrown into a job among the park’s games booths, James settles in quickly, and, intitally due to his stash of weed, makes friends with the other groups of teenagers manning the attractions – in particular his eye is caught by Em (Kristen Stewart of “Twilight” fame). There’s an instant chemistry between them, although she is secretly sleeping with the park’s handyman and supposed guitar legend Mike (Ryan Reynolds). James also befriends Joel, a very geeky pipe-smoking stoner, who is regularly picked on but also popular with the other workers. This bunch of misfits would probably fit in really well down Bury market on a Saturday!

Em and James begin a slow-burning romance, but this rapidly hits the rocks when James discovers Em’s real infatuation with Mike. It’d at this point that the movie turns from being just a laugh out loud comedy (and the first half is indeed very entertaining), into something much deeper and more serious. The murky world of young love is well explored here, with all the characters experiencing trauma to some degree, and the gradual disintegration of Em in particular is superbly acted. Kristen Stewart acts her socks off here, and those who enjoyed her in Twilight will have little complaint. She has a big future. Jesse Eisenberg is also terrific in the lead role, portraying just the right level of geeky vulnerability but also a gradually deepening understanding of who he is and what he wants from life – a brief fling with tarty, yet virginal, sexpot Lisa P gives him more confidence and also increases his standing among his friends.

As summer starts to fade, all the characters face agonising decisions about their futures. Well, all except the hilarious duo of Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig, who play the park’s owners in a really daft, goofy way – they’re the comic glue holding the serious performances together.

Big G and I really enjoyed this – the film really changes halfway through and in my view is all the better for it – had it just been yet another romcom type movie, it would have been enjoyable enough, but the added relationship depth and strong characterisation give this the edge on other movies of its sort. But there are still plenty of funny moments for those seeking some laughs! A definite feelgood film!

Oh and lovers of 80s music (points at self) will also love the soundtrack, which boasts dozens of brilliant tunes from the decade that music loves and fashion totally forgot!

Memorable moments

Joel: [looking at fish bowls] A little more than 40% of these fish are dead.

Tommy Frigo: James, don’t get all drunk and fall asleep or anything.
James Brennan: Why not?
Tommy Frigo: Because I’ll jack off on your face.

James Brennan: Yeah, Frigo was my best friend. Then, I turned four.

Em Lewin: [to James, after he has been punched in the balls by Frigo] What the hell was that?
James Brennan: It’s just my life

Joel: We pay little Malaysian kids 10 cents a day to make these toys, we can’t just give them away.

Sue O’Malley: What are you majoring in?
Joel: Russian literature and Slavic languages.
Sue O’Malley: Oh wow, that’s pretty interesting. What career track is that?
Joel: Cabby, hot dog vendor, marijuana delivery guy. The world is my oyster.

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