Saturday, April 11, 2009

Paragraph (Plus) Movie Reviews: Adventureland

More than a paragraph because I wanna give a standard review and then a slightly more personal-to-me take on this one.

I have definitely seen films that are more technically proficent, funnier, and flat out better than "Adventureland" pretty recently, but I haven't seen a movie that gave me the kinda enjoyment and satisfaction I got with this one in years. It's a very intangible and hard to pinpoint thing, because like I said I know I've seen plenty of good movies lately, but something about this one just caught and connected with me on a level that made me grin. Admittedly, I think a large chunk of that came from the fact that I felt a personal empathy to the main character* as well as a sort of nostalgic link to his situation (I've never worked at an amusement park, but his summer job and the environment he was in definitely took me back to my summer camp days in terms of tone), so your mileage may vary on how much you dig the flick. That aside, I do think it held up well just on its own merits. It was certainly not what I was expecting (and, to be fair, what I feel was advertised in the trailers and commercials), which was another Apatow-style screwball comedy. Instead, it was a far more earnest and heartfelt story about young love that got its laughs from fairly realistic events as opposed to outright absurdity. It felt like a more reined-in "Superbad" (which makes sense, as it was the same director, Greg Mottola, who also wrote it) with a touch of "Almost Famous." The people and situations feel like ones you might actually encounter, which gives the movie more weight than something like "40-Year Old Virgin" or whatever. To wit, Jesse Eisenberg is a big reason I dug this so much, and I believe it's because he is what I want Michael Cera to be; he's able to do the "Oh, I'm such a dork, but I'm really sweet" routine and score with the awkward comedy, but not every line is for laughs and he's credible in his serious scenes; you believe that girls would fall for this guy and you're rooting for him. I was probably most concerned about Kristen Stewart going in, because she looked so wooden in just the commercials I saw for "Twilight" and certainly came off like a ditz promoting that movie, but man, she proved my expectations wrong in this one. She's incredibly natural and pulls off perfectly playing the hot girl who is also totally attainable, not an easy feat. It was also cool seeing Ryan Reynolds being given a chance to stretch, not playing the uber nice guy or the cocky prick for once, but instead a very flawed dude whose behavior doesn't match up with his exterior at all. As for Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig, literally all their scenes are in the trailer and I kinda presume they (and Reynolds) were used primarily to get people to buy tickets, which is fine, because I was much more intrigued by Eisenberg, Stewart and the rest of the young cast. Also, great soundtrack. I really just loved this movie. A great balance of humor and heart with a love story I cared enough about that I was on the edge of my seat to see if it all worked out.

*So why did I relate to Jesse Eisenberg's character, James Brennan, so much? Well, even though he was supposed to be 22, he sure reminded me a whole lot of me circa 16-19 (or so). He's a kinda awkward but sorta charming guy who becomes convinced very very quickly that if he makes a connection with a girl, he has found true love. Yeah, that was me in high school for sure. I can't tell you how many times I would just be hanging out with a girl and become convinced she was "the one" just because I was so desperate to fall in love. And much like James, there were a lot of times where I'd find myself turfed because an onstensibly cooler guy who also happened to be kind of a prick came along. It's hard to get into more detail if you haven't seen the movie and/or lived in my headspace for a bit (and that second one is tough), but now that I'm pretty far removed from that guy who I was 10 years ago and have actually found that elusive love I was always searching for, it was really kinda neat to relive those days in a way without having to actually, y'know, go through them again. If you had a similar period in your life (or even if you haven't), I recommend this movie.


Mel Caylo said...

I was gonna pass on this one, Benny (I was burned by the sucky "Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist") but based on your reco I'll check it out. Thanks.

Ben Morse said...

I hope you dig it. If it helps, I didn't really like "Nick & Norah's," so I wouldn't consider them that comparable.