Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Late 80's Amusement Park Blues

ADVENTURELAND (Dir. Greg Mottola, 2009) Greg Mottola's follow-up to the hilarious and touching SUPERBAD immediately announces its thematic stance with The Replacements anthem of adolescent angst "Bastards Of Young" blaring at the very beginning. In 1987 Pittsburgh, Jesse Eisenberg (THE SQUID AND THE WHALE) is indeed the "mess on the ladder of success" that song wailed on as he finds that his parents have cancelled his dream trip to Europe due to his father being transferred at work. After failing to find anything close to upscale work, Eisenberg gets a summer job working game booths at Adventureland - a garrish amusement park so cheap one risks being fired if they give away prizes such as stuffed giant Pandas simply because they're running out of them. Eisenberg falls for a co-worker (Kristen Stewart of TWILIGHT) while suffering daily indignities such as ridicule from his former best friend (Matt Bush) who has a penchant for decking him in the crotch and almost being knifed by a redneck father for one of the prized "big ass" Pandas. Luckily Eisenberg has a few things that help him get through this. He is given a bag of joints by a yuppie friend (Michael Zegen) who actually gets to go on his summer vacation, he befriends Martin Starr (Freaks And Geeks) as a burnt out carnie and confides about his crush on Stewart with a laid back Ryan Reynolds, a handyman who is semi-legendary in the park because he supposedly jammed with Lou Reed. Reed appears in the almost wall-to-wall mix of 70's and 80's music that blankets every scene lovingly. Falco's "Rock Me Amadeus" seems to never stop playing on the park's PA system but the likes of well chosen Big Star, Crowded House, Velvet Underground, Hüsker Dü, New York Dolls, and Bowie cuts that fill out the soundtrack more than make up for that. The appearance of SNL's Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig as Eisenberg's bosses made me expect a broader and definitely wackier movie but the wack has been held back in favor of character development over crude jokes - though there are a few. A number of narrative threads aren't fully fleshed out; there seems to have been stuff cut from the parents' (Jack Gilpin and Wendy Mallick) story and Reynolds just has the bare bones of an identity yet he still slickly glides through. Eisenberg is likable in his Michael Cera-like awkwardness even when he performs some cringe worthy actions such as taking the park's lusted after Lisa P (Margarita Levieva ) for a date on the side. There aren't big laughs; just a steady stream of snickers but enough to keep me smiling throughout. It's apt for a film set in the late 80's about coming of age in the era post Pacman and pre Beavis And Butt-head that it has a heart more akin to John Hughes than Judd Apatow. A comic valentine to a plastic but palpable time, ADVENTURELAND is a good, not great, ride. Post note: New Jersey Indie rock heroes Yo La Tengo scored the film and contributed a track called "Leaving Adventureland" which plays over the end credits and is well worth a download. It's Yo La Tengo instrumental dreaminess at its best. More later...

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

It is extremely interesting for me to read this article. Thank you for it. I like such themes and everything connected to this matter. I definitely want to read more soon.

Anonymous said...

The eighties was a great and wonderful era to have grown up in or lived in!
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