Don’t worry if you didn’t see this movie in the theaters or haven’t had a chance to rent it, because you’ve seen this movie before. Adventureland follows an old formula: boy meets girl. Boy and girl fall in love. Something happens that make boy and girl break up. Of course, they still love each other. Then something happens that brings boy and girl back together.
It’s not that formulas are bad. Plenty of movies are based on the same concepts and ideas. For example: Something tragic happens to character X’s family. Character X seeks revenge. Character X gets his revenge. Apply this formula one way and we get The Outlaw Josey Wales. Apply it in another way and we get Punisher: Warzone. The difference is the first movie had something to say and the second movie was an excuse to show explosions on the big screen.
Adventureland falls into the second category of a movie that has nothing to say. Greg Mottola, who directed Superbad, brought nothing new to a crowded genre of movies saying the same thing. It’s Say Anything without the boom box. It’s Jerry Maguire without the “You had me at hello.” It’s The Notebook without the notebook.
I could almost forgive Mottola for creating a movie that has no interest in being anymore than what it is. Not every film can have a defining moment that captures an audience’s heart or defines a generation. However, every movie should have characters the audience cares about. There should be some connection between characters in a movie and the audience. Audiences wanted Marty McFly to get back to the future just as much as they wanted Biff to get his ass kicked. We loved Marty; we hated Biff. However, we had a connection with Biff, because we have all known a Biff that we wanted to punch in the nose.
Mottola failed to create and develop characters that we care about one-way or the other. If James and Em get back together, that’s fine. If they don’t get back together, that’s fine. If Mike is cheating on his wife, that’s fine. If they all get hit by a bus, that’s fine too. The impression is that Mottola doesn’t care about his characters and if a director doesn’t care about his characters then why should we? It’s a shame, because the film has a very talented roster.
In the lead role of James is Jesse Eisenberg. James is the self-deprecating, uncomfortable, nerdy guy who is figuring out life. Eisenberg is perfect in the role. He has perfected this same character in other movies like Rodger Dodger and The Hunting Party. Even money says that he will play the same type of character in Zombieland (hmmm…..Adventureland to Zombieland. Coincidence? ).
Playing Eisenberg’s love interest is Kristen Stewart…give me a moment to regain my composure…. Stewart plays Em, the girl that shows James the amusement park ropes. I will go on record right now saying, “I like Kristen Stewart.” She reminds me of the girl in school (high school, GED classes, college) who is hotter than a three-alarm fire, but has a low self-esteem. You know the girl who covers everything, from the bangs that go past her eyes to the baggy clothes that cover everything else. The girl who thinks that she has to look weird and reject others before they can reject her. The girl who could have anyone, if she were to give it half a chance.
Of course, James falls deeply and madly in love with her before she even opens her mouth. I don’t blame the guy; it’s Kristen Stewart! However, there is not one single moment in the film that we can see a spark between the two of them. The movie goes from the two of them meeting and then jumps to them being in love. It just happens and we have to go along with it, because Mottola hasn’t given us any other choice.
In this type of movie there is always something that tears the happy couple apart. Playing the wedge that comes between James and Em is Mike, played by Ryan Reynolds. I like Reynolds as an actor. He has talent and in movies like Adventureland, he gets to show it. Too often we see Reynolds in movies where he is the smart ass or the class clown. I admit it; he does a great job in movies like Van Wilder, Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle, and Waiting. But, it’s movies like Definitely, Maybe, The Nines and The Amityville Horror that we really get to see Reynolds shine.
Mike, the amusement park’s handy man, had an affair with Em. James freaks out after he learns that the two of them had something going on in the past. Of course, he doesn’t want to see her again. This isn’t the sad moment that it should be, because Mottola has shoved on us a love connection between James and Em that we never believed in the first place. We still don’t care when James realizes he made a mistake dumping a hottie like Kristen Stewart and tries to win her back.
The real gems in this movie are Bill Hader and Kristnen Wigg. You may remember Hader as Seth Rogen’s cop partner in Superbad and Wigg from Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story. Both actors are hysterical as the owners of the amusement park where James and Em work. They steal every scene that they’re in. Unfortunately, neither one of them are on screen long enough to save the movie.
You won’t regret watching Adventureland, but there are better flicks that deserve your time.