While scanning Box Office Mojo’s 2009 film totals to date I noticed some rather disappointing figures. The usual suspects (i.e. the mall cops, scary movies, tween bait, superheroes, tricked out cars, etc.) were at the top of the list, yet one of the better films of this year, Adventureland, was is barely treading water. Currently, Adventureland is listed as the 33rd highest grossing film of the year. Just edging out the John Cena vehicle, 12 Rounds, and trailing such “Hollywood gems” like Push, The Unborn, Pink Panther 2, etc. I fear that I will be adding Crank 2 to this illustrious list of movies by the end of the weekend. Part of this is probably a result of the way the film was marketed. It is being sold as a silly teen comedy, which could not be further from the truth.
Set in 1987, Adventureland is a coming-of-age tale that centers around James Brennan (Jesse Eisenberg). In his early 20’s, and fresh off his undergrad, James has his sights set on starting graduate school in New York in the fall. When James’ parents fall on tough financial times, and cannot afford to cover his schooling, James is forced to put aside his European vacation and get a summer job. James quickly realizes that his Liberal Arts degree is worth nothing as the only job he can land is at the local amusement park, Adventureland. While working at the park James meets and unique group of co-workers, including Em Lewin (Kristen Stewart), who ultimately make this a summer that James will never forget.
While tales of 20-somethings finding themselves is nothing new; it is the way that writer/director Greg Mottola (Superbad, The Daytrippers) crafts his characters which makes this film work so well. I liked that instead of just making caricatures of carnie life, Matolla provided a fairly realistic portrayal of how young people at that age think and act. The film never opts for the easy laugh when characters encounter issues regarding love, family, aspirations, illness, loneliness, marriage, etc. Since every character in the film is layered, Mottola allows them to tackle the issues instead of running from them. As a result, it is easy to identify with almost every character in the film. You cannot help but feel for Em, as she misguidedly confuses sex with love. You cringe once you realize that James’ awkwardness is inside us all. Despite being a cad, you never truly hate Mike (Ryan Reynolds). You are pleasantly surprised to see that Lisa P (Margarita Levieva) is more than a mere flirt. Sure she knows how to use sex appeal to her advantage, yet she does not let it compromise her values (e.g. virginity), etc.
Unfortunately Advertureland does not seem to be the type of film that has people running in droves to their local theatres. Which is a shame, yet there is no reason for you not to go and see it. The film has a great story, strong acting, and a writer/director who truly knows how to connect with his audience. Not to mentioning that Adventureland is one of my favourite films to be released so far this year.
For more reviews from 2009 click here