When James Brennan (Jesse Eisenberg) has to cancel his dream summer vacation and make some money for grad school, the only job he can get is at Adventureland, a tacky amusement part where the games are rigged and the rides make you hurt. But it’s where he meets Em (Kristen Stewart, Twilight) and his rollercoaster ride to nowhere turns into the best summer ever. Filled with a carnival of colorful characters and set to a killer soundtrack, Adventureland is “the kind of adventure we could all use more of” (Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times).
‘Adventureland’ is a slice of life, taking place during those few months, post-high school, when reality starts to set in and the future looms large ahead. In this case, it’s the story of a teenager whose dreams start to unravel when his parents can no longer afford his college tuition, and he is forced to make changes in his plans for the summer and the upcoming school year.
Frankly, I had never really been interested in ‘Adventureland’. Its title, the generic poster/cover, the fact that it’s from the director of ‘Superbad’… it all left me completely disinterested. But someone from a music store I go to regular recommended it, and the price was low enough to take the plunge, and I decided I’d give it a try.
Actually, it’s good enough to say that it’s a pretty decent film. But it didn’t connect with me one bit. I really couldn’t relate with any of the characters and there was no emotional pull at all for me. And anyone who reads my blurbs knows that it’s not because I’m too old for teen dramas or comedies – I’m a sucker for plenty of melancholic and sappy things.
I hardly laughed (enough so that I wonder why it’s labelled a comedy, or “Truly Hilarious” as it says on the box – to me, at best, it’s a dramedy ), I wasn’t moved, I didn’t cry and I didn’t even get upset by anything. I was in neutral pretty much the whole way, waiting for something special to happen, expecting a remarkable turn of events, a break-through, at any moment.
Instead, I sat there wondering just why these people smoked so much pot. Was it to cater to “cool” or “with it” audiences? I mean, I know that some people light up a lot, in a habitual way, but there were so many in ‘Adventureland’ that it represented a reality that I’ve certainly never known – even though I have friends who were once way worse than these people.
As well, all of them were apparently just out of high school, and yet they were drinking openly everywhere – even in bars, where, presumably, they’d be under-age (especially in the States). So what was up with that? Did I miss something, or is there an inadvertent blurring of reality taking place here? The law being what it is, bars would lose their licenses for serving under-aged patrons…
Which leads me to wonder about the ages of the characters. Some looked too young to be legal (ex: Kirsten Stewart), others looked too old to be teens (ex: Paige Howard). It was all so discrepant that it was jarring, distracting, to me. I don’t know if they had casting issues on this movie, or if they just decided to get whoever they could, but this issue stuck with me throughout.
I guess it didn’t help that my expectations weren’t met. I had imagined this to be a comedy, but it was mostly a drama. Or perhaps the humour was completely lost on me. Maybe it was too subtle, or a brand of humour that doesn’t reach me. The only time I laughed out loud was when the goofy metalhead did an air drum solo for Stewart, thinking she’d be impressed by his mad chops.
Beyond this, the film left me wanting. The story is okay, the acting is okay (even thought Stewart and Eisenberg play the same characters here that they frequently do), and the pace is quite good. But even the grand finale failed to touch me in any way. I didn’t even realize the movie was about to wrap up, because there didn’t appear to be any build-up.
Mind you… perhaps I was just emotionally incapable of feeling it, detached as I was. ‘Adventureland’ may be filled with roller-coasters in just about every scene, but I was never on board. I was strictly a spectator, watching the rides but never actually participating in any of it. Was it worth the price of admission? Sure. Would I revisit ‘Adventureland’? Hmmm… not so sure.