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Adventureland (2009)

Blu-ray Disc Released: 8/25/2009

All Ratings out of
Movie: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 8/23/2009

Over the past few years, I've heard news stories about how teens who text and now twitter can damage a film's opening weekend because they see the movie on opening night and while they are still in the theater, they alert their friends to avoid it. I've never really lent much credence to this. Oh, it's not that I don't believe it, I do. But, I don't go to the movies on opening night anymore, and I'm not a teen who texts or tweets. And I honestly can't say that I've ever seen a movie where this phenomenon came to mind...until now. While watching Adventureland, I couldn't help to think that the film's disappointing box office take had a lot to do with teens who went to the theater on opening night, only to find that the movie was nothing like the advertisements.

As Adventureland opens, we are introduced to James Brennan (Jesse Eisenberg), a young man who has just graduated from college. He had planned to spend the summer in Europe with his friend Eric (Michael Zegen), but due to his father's recent demotion, there's no money for that. So, James comes home to Pittsburgh for the summer, where he must dwell while waiting for grad school in the fall. He tries to find a job, but quickly learn that his academic background doesn't qualify him for a summer job. His childhood friend Frigo (Matt Bush), helps James get a job at Adentureland, the local amusement park. Despite the fact that he wants to work on a ride, James is put in games. There he meets Joel (Martin Starr), an awkward young man, and Em (Kristen Stewart), an aloof young woman. While James hates the job and the customers, he immediately takes a liking to Em, and they begin to hang out. But, James doesn't have much experience in relationships, and he soon learns that Em is a complicated person and that there are relationship politics at the park.

In my reviews, I typically stick to the facts of the movie at hand, but I'm going to diverge a bit here. If you go back and look at the trailer for Adventureland, it was advertised as a comedy. There was a hint of a coming-of-age story, but mostly we got a comic vibe, and a good number of moments with James' bosses, Bobby (Bill Hader) and Paulette (Kristen Wiig). The ads also stressed the fact that the movie is directed by the director of Superbad. So, based on all of this, I'm sure that many people (like myself) went in expecting a comedy. I mean, why wouldn't we?

But, as we all quickly learned, Adventureland isn't a comedy. Not by a long shot. There are exactly two funny lines, and one good sight gag in the movie and that's it. And I'm not just trying to say that the movie isn't funny (which it isn't), while watching the movie, we never get the sense that it thinks that it's a comedy.

So, if you go into Adventureland unprepared, like myself and presumably, many others, it is a bit jarring to realize that we've been woefully misled by the trailer. OK, we should be able to get over it and adjust to the fact that the movie is something else. But, the problem here is that the non-comedy movie with which we are presented isn't very good. Writer/Director Greg Mottola has stated that the movie is based on his own experience working at an amusement park in his youth. Well, if his experience was anything like what is presented in the film, then it's a wonder that he's alive today. Adventureland is a coming-of-age movie which quickly becomes overly angsty and weepy. James' difficult situation continues to spiral out of control and more and more unbelievably bad things keep happening to him. He is asked to carry the film, but James, and most every other character in the film, is highly unlikable -- everyone is whiny and down, and a chore to watch. In fact, the only likable character is Lisa P. (Margarita Levieva), as she actually feels like someone from the 80s -- ironically, she's the character that he are supposed to hate. I didn't buy Kristen Stewart as the dreamgirl, and Ryan Reynolds is simply wasted in his small role.

Like Mottola, I worked in an amusement park when I was younger. And like the characters portrayed in the film, I didn't enjoy the job itself very much. But, it wasn't a nightmare and it didn't put my mope-meter over the top. Adventureland is rife with opportunities to either be a wacky comedy or a solid lost youth story, but it's neither.

Adventureland hoards big pandas on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Miramax. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at 30 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, showing only mild grain and no defects from the source print. The colors look fantastic and the image is never overly dark or bright. The image has good depth, but the level of detail is only OK. The Disc offers a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 3.5 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are good, most notably the sounds from the park. Likewise, the park sounds create a nice array of surround sound effects, and some occasional bass. The best part of the track (and the only good part of the movie) is the in-film music, which sounds great and proves that The Replacements should be in every movie.

The Adventureland Blu-ray Disc boasts many extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY with Director Greg Mottola and Jesse Eisenberg. In "Just My Life: The Making of Adventureland" (17 minutes), Mottola discusses the fact that the movie is based on his own experiences. From there, the actors discuss their characters. We then get a look at the amusement park where the film was shot. The piece contains some on-set footage and also some deleted scenes. Speaking of which, the Disc contains three DELETED SCENES which run about 2 minutes and can be viewed with commentary from Mottola and Eisenberg. All three are brief and don't introduce any new plotpoints. In "Frigo's Ball Taps" (3 minutes), actor Matt Bush demonstrates the many ways to punch people in the groin. "Lisa P's Guide to Style" (2 minutes) has the character explaining her 80s look. "Welcome to Adventureland" (6 minutes) is a series of four commercials and traning videos which focus on the park. They really emphasize the 80s look.

Review Copyright 2009 by Mike Long