Adventureland (2009)

Adventureland represents everything I pray my first months as a college graduate do not include, although worse things than bro-ing out with Ryan Reynolds and having Kristen Stewart fall madly in love me could go down.

Jesse Eisenberg, the unexpected hero of Adventureland (expected hero, really) portrays a less asshole-ish version of his Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network, pulling out all the nerdy stops, including but not limited to: an immensely awkward and unfailing stammer when speaking to any remotely attractive woman, a less-than-flattering Jew-fro, and a borderline translucent complexion (admittedly much like my own).  Kristen Stewart is…well, Kristen Stewart, bringing the exact same mannerisms and monotone speech that she brings to every other film she’s been in. Last but not least, Ryan Reynolds plays the classic douche.  Did I mention that Adventureland takes place in the ’80s?

I shouldn’t be too harsh, though, considering that I actually enjoyed the film and the acting wasn’t all that bad. Do not be mistaken, Adventureland is for the youthful, for those looking for a light-hearted comedy; it might even be for the unintelligent (not exclusively but mainly, so I surmise), but all this does not mean that it is a bad movie. Adventureland is a small romantic-comedy whose scale tips more in favor of comedy, which is for the best. This trio of actors, with their total of one solid performance between them (see paragraph above), aren’t ready to form a Scarlet Letter-esque love triangle in a dramatic romance film akin to that of Blue Valentine or Her or even something similar to the more humorous-but-still-siding-with-romance-over-comedy, like (500) Days of Summer (though Reynolds has certainly tried).

Adventureland is funny, and I wouldn’t think anyone who has seen it would fight with me on this.  Bill Hader, as Bobby, steals the show with his sheer absurdity.  One scene in particular is especially hilarious.  It comes after James (Eisenberg) stands up for Em (Stewart) by jabbing a slightly over-weight and probably drunk more-or-less hillbilly in the abdomen, which causes the hillbilly’s equally hick-like friend to angrily chase James around Adventureland, the carnival where he and Em have summer jobs.  James races into the main office and breathes out the words, “Someone is trying to kill me.”  Hader responds, he grabs his women’s softball bat and exits the office screaming profanities and essential death threats at the attacker, who, believing Hader to be a full-blown psychopath, runs off.  Along with attacking a patron of Adventureland who refuses to properly dispose of his empty soda and insanely commentating for a pre-determined race of plastic horse cut-outs, Hader dominates the movie, keeping it fresh and making it easy to watch the film in its entirety.

While, I refuse to say there was anything redeeming about Reynolds in Adventureland, himself and his character included, there were moments that I was pleasantly surprised by the Eisenberg and Stewart’s acting efforts.  Specifically was James’ confrontation of Em after discovering that she has been sleeping with Connell in secret, which has been the cause of Em’s self-loathing and inability to commit to James (Reynolds really does his darndest to fuck everything up in this one).  Stewart’s incredible stress and confusion are remarkably apparent on her crying face as she watches her love life go to complete and total shit all in about five minutes.  Then, she returns home, where her rapidly balding step-mother calls her an “ungrateful bitch.” Rough.

Maybe the acting is tad bit underwhelming, maybe  the arch of the film’s plot is disappointingly predictable, maybe I wanted to strangle Ryan Reynolds for the entire runtime of the film, but, in the end, I still like this movie.  Like many movies about young people, Adventureland connects with… well, young people.  It’s definitely no Ferris Bueller’s Day Off or Breakfast Club (I didn’t exactly want to crash a massive parade in the heart of downtown Chicago or befriend a low-life named John Bender after seeing this film), but I did connect with the notion of longing for love and excitement.  James has a grand vision of what he hopes his life will be like, a vision that contrasts hideously with how his life is now, and he ultimately finds this to be deeply upsetting.  These feelings are probably felt by a multitude of young men and women, and I pride Adventureland for being aware of that.  However, much like the arch of the plot, this trope has been played upon time and time again.

I like Adventureland for the simple reason that it is funny and light-hearted, I connect with it on some level, and it is by no means an investment watching it (it’s not a “thinker,” so to speak). I would recommend it for date night; that’s probably the best way that I can describe Adventureland.

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