A movie about guys, gals, the 80's, and emotionless emotion. Hell folks, this is a life leech.
This movie was written and directed by Greg Mollota. His previous outings include Superbad, Arrested Development, and Undeclared. So clearly the man has chops for quirky. The main character James is a recent college graduate. He majored in English and is home for the summer. Part of his plan was to go backpacking and traveling across Europe. Unfortunately his father got a job change and he is forced to take a job at Adventureland, a run of the mill amusement park. The summer catalogues his misadventures finding love and himself against the backdrop that normally only can produce 25 cent mustache rides. The prospect of amusement parks sounds cool right? Amusement parks are fun, right?
Fun, provided at this time you're not clawing your face off from the bad trip.
Seriously, I have pulled time at Carnivals less fashionable and fancy than Adventureland, and I have to admit, the "strange character" crop is overflowing. Stereotypes are in very large supply, although here they are more comedic cardboard cutouts. James meets a bevy of people who are very well defined were in not for THE FACT THAT THEY HAVE ZERO FUCKIN PERSONALITY! The story and James' attempts to find romance are weaker than an armless, legless harp solo. The problem, as we will see, is that Adventureland is cinematic blue balls. It promises a lot, shows glimpses of what you can get, but never delivers completely. This movie did however remind me very much of my own trials and tribulations during the 80's finding love. Two hours of work, seeing the signs of something, then nothing, not even a boob shot.
The apparent (or at least promised) draw of the movie was its "quirky" characters. This is a trend that needs to be either healed, halted, or at least explained. Quirky movies have enjoyed a kind of revival as of late. A lot of movies exemplify this - Little Miss Sunshine, The Great Buck Howard, and Film Geek are GOOD examples. It boils down to this folks. Quirky characters make a great movie about as much as Eggs and Bacon make a great cream pie. The idea is that if we have people who are quirky say wacky things, this will drive the plot. And what qualifies people as quirky in a movie? Well, let's meet the staff of Adventureland and see if we can find out.
A study in menschy mediorcity, not quirky.
James: Played by Jesse Eisenberg, this is our main character. He is the fro'ed schmuck on the left. In retrspect, I could have given a shit if he would have been eaten by wolverines while being sodomized by Easter Island statues. The thrust of his character is supposed to be that he represents early male troubles with personal identity and relationship status. We will discuss this later, but if this had been the focus of the movie and had been developed, this movie probably would have been great. The short scenes explaining his struggle in pieces were magnificient, but the overall picture was shite. James is not seeking his identity, he is a shadow of Woody Allen. He stutters more sheepishly than Hugh Grant in a wool sweater talking to Renee Zelweiger eating lamb chops. Point blank, this guy is fucking annoying. My wife, who drools at the mere mention of Bridget Jones, or Princess Diaries found nothing redeeming about this guy or his struggle. Jesse Eisenberg is the low rent lovechild of Michael Cera and Jason Biggs.
Emily: She is the gal on the right in the picture above. She is played by Kristen Stewart. You may remember her from Twilight. This movie and that movie have two things in common.
1. They both suck. And that is not a cheezy vampire crack. They both plain suck on toast.
2. They display that Kristin Stweart clearly went to an acting school who taught that to overcome a lack of skill, you reinforce emotional construct by not saying a Fuckin word. Silence speaks louder than words, except dramatically spoken words. There is more uncomfortable silence here than screening Schindler's List with a mixed audience of Jews and Nazis.
Kristin Stewart is an attractive gal, who does play at being emotionally confused and "damaged goods" in a fine way. he character is a mommy-less waif who enjoys soulless sexual relationships and is confused when a true good thing comes along. This would be a great an accurate character to explore. The problem is that we are not sure how she feels about it, cause she never tells us. She barely even shows us, except for misty eyes and gulps of angst air. She is just moody without substance, and we are supposed to feel bad. I do not.
Coolest vest ever!!
Joel - This character is played by Martin Starr. In my opinion, he was the best character is the film. He seemed to be the only person who learned anything. In this case it was anti-semitism, but hey, that is a diamond in this plate of cowflop. Joel is a Russian Literature major Jewish character who is an iconoclast character. He looks like Shemp (also Jewish thank you) and is very brilliant, obviously stuck in a no use of your potential job. In this he is more of what the main character should have been. Joel does very little in this film except introduce James to the carnival, and get his heart broken. He is however deeper and makes more connections for James than he does for himself. I would love to see a movie about this guy's life. He kind of reminded me of Wyatt (dark-haired kid) from Weird Science, which made him likable. As we mentioned earlier, he was the only character to have grown at all. After he dropped James off in New York, I was more concerned about the hell he went off to than I did about James and Em.
Clearly, there was some modeling here... and not after Rodney. That might have helped.
Frigo - This is one of my favorite minor characters played well by Matt Bush. He was pure comic relief, but I never argue with any comedy whose arsenal is the majestic nutshot. You are introduced to this character via a middle finger and a nutshot, and the only change James ever shows in the film is giving him a shot in the pills. If you wanted to be all artsy - Frigo's outbursts and observations highlight when James is in conflict or being embrassed and thus is an extroverted characterization of the internal struggle of a man's personal libido and his own fear of failings with masculinity. God that was easy for making some shit up. Seriously, this character had no real purpose in the movie except for little nutshots, which arguably are the funiest moments of the movie. Now that I think about, nutshots aren't reallty quirky as much as they are painful. I believe he was modeled after the D'Annunzio character from Caddyshack.
Excellent characters, terribly underused. Also looks like one of my uncles. The guy you jackass.
Bobby and Paulette - This couple displayed more quirk than the rest of the cast combined. Bill Hader (as usual) plays his minor role with considerable aplomb and is hilarious due to his reaching for it and giving into to the role. He and Rainn Wilson need to be in a buddy picture. Bobby runs the park and excels at something sad yet magical. You have to admit a carnie seems gross and inbred, yet they can swindle you outta twenty bucks with simple psychology. "Something pretty to compliment that young lady?" Kristen Wiig was unfortunately underused in this movie as well. They were a good companion package, backing up each other. The support of a man who rules the near bottom was clear in her eyes and wonderful. The eyes on the bananas scene was very funny. Bobby is also one of the only characters I remember sporting a Dengle-stache that is not gay. Okay, Tom Selleck... sort of.
Connell - I am purposefully not including a character photo because everyone knows what Ryan Reynolds looks like. Ryan plays Connell, a mix of the following character stereotypes: stud, older cool guy, wisdom dispensing "been there" guy, unfaithful husband lusting after young girl, and what the FUCK? I applaud Reynold's obvious attempt at a serious role, and he did well in it, excpet for one big thing. One, he seemed to be the moral and advice compass for James thorughout the movie, even though he was shtupping Em the whole time. Clearly I should have added douchebag to the list. This is added to the fact that James wasn't at all upset or pissed at him for his "Adventurelanding." Granted I know that disappointment is what was felt there, the trouncing of a "hero" and all, but damn. There is accepting, and there is doormat.
Alluring and fashionably accurate. And the Sno-Cone can ice down your blue balls.
Lisa P. - Margarita Levieva plays one of the shallowest, yet deepest character. She is clearly a girl all of us have met, right guys? The hottie who knows it, and displays it, yet it at heart very can't have it. This is a nice contrast with Em in the film, but she did nothing but move the plot along, seriously, her name should have been Deus Breast Machina. The chest of the gods was her role. No argument that she was attractive, but she again was just a typical harpy-esque woman whose ride shoujld have been the Blue Baller. She is the legendary hottie of the park who everyone lusts after, but is a virgin. The way that park worked, she should have had a "V" sewn into her Flashdance shirt.
My wife summed up well that this movie is in actuality 167 minutes long. The movie is 107 minutes, followed by the hour of crying from realizing you could have wasted the last two hours of your life being high. The normal effect of this movie is trying to figure out what happened and why it happened, and why the hell you insisted on watching emotional paint dry. This movie did teach me a couple of lessons:
1. Very few people understand what character development is. I see this in posts on IMBD where people talk of this film being an excellent rendition of 80's movies and have the audacity to compare this film with John Hughes. Granted Molly Ringwald played virtually the same character in each movie, but she grew in actual understanding of herself, mainly in that she was deserving of being loved. Movies 101 teaches us that a character must change, otherwise, there is no point. We take the journey with them. None of these guys had fuckin luggage. Em started in a relationship that was soulessly sexual, and ended boning James after NEVER discussing any of the awkward moments that they last shared. James didn't even learn to stop playing the sad hurt guy card, which was evident by this: "Hey, I'm stranded in New York with no where to go. Now I will play on your abandonment issues by emotionally forcing you into feeling sorry for me and I know you give to yourself to people sexually to feel intimacy. End game, James. I score." Actually, that sounds good. Granted, most guys play a version of this card, but damn Em.
2. Even quirky must have a reason. It is not enough to be weird. The world learned thiswith Tom Green, Andy Dick, and Dick Cheney. Quirk is quirky because it differs from the norm around it. Quirky stands out. This film had no Nerd Litmus. There wasn't a single person of substance that had any semblance of not being wacky. Parents were displayed as shamelessly out of touch authority figures, and the fact that EVERYONE was quirky at the park is too much, although granted it was frightfully accurate for an amusement park. Also it makes it hard for the audience to pick out the quirk they identify with. Reviews state that this film portrays people as real and not stereotypical. Stereotypes are generalizations based on a simplified examination and grouping. By making their characters ALL quirky, the film is one BIG fuckin stereotype. In essence, quirky is only quirky when it is quirky. You can only see quirky when there are normal people to be backdrops of. The closest true quirk was Bobby, and that was not really quirky, that was a guy who loved his job a lot. He seemed quirky because NO ONE ELSE there liked their job.
3. You Can't Blame a Bad Movie on Bad Marketing. I see this one a lot on the message boards. If you see Adventureland as a "Superbad" movie, you won't enjoy it. This is like saying dog shit would taste great if you told me it was ice cream. Reviews aren't saying that Adventureland is bad when seen as Superbad, its saying that its bad when watched as Adventureland. Many critics, and also many fans judge a movie on whether or not they want to carve their own genitals off during a viewing (just me?). It is about whether or not the experience gave them something to take away with them. Without being fancy - the philosophy of Emmanuel Kant described art as being eternal because everytime someone looks at it, the art mixes with the person who is viewing it and it becomes reborn as the individual meshes with the purpose of the piece. This explains how I have seen Ghostbusters over 300 times and still find something new. I am looking at it with constantly evolving eyes. The problem was the lack of feekling anything for these people. Autistic children have more emotion than Adventureland. Rainman is Richard Burton by comparison. Poor writing makes for poor moving of syntax, which means diarrhea on film, nothing you can grab. Personally, I was told that this was a Superbad film, and I watched it IN SPITE of that. I still didn't like it.
4. Adventureland is the Single White female roommate of Caddyshack. I have this weird theory about Adventureland, that it was trying to grasp onto a Caddyshack formula. Young kind of unsure kid (James/Danny Noonan) is unsure of who he is and is love with a special girl who doesn't feel that way about herself (Emily/"Look at my holy cards" Maggie). He has a wise sage who advises him and is an idol of sorts (Connell/Ty Webb). The place is run by a quirky couple (Bobby-Paulette/Judge Smails-Carl Spackler). The main character has a tryst with a hot girl who is legendary at the location (Lisa P./Lacy Underalls). The character of Frigo I will stand by was ripped off of D'Annunzio from Caddyshack. Hell that was what actually started this whole thing off. I still can't fit in Rodney or Joel into this mix. The difference here is Caddyshack didn't suck. Noonon at least won a tournament and got money to use for college. Also shit blew up at the end, causing the ball to go in. That was stolen by happy Gilmore. None of this explains why danny Noonan was still caddying the next year, but we all want to believe and NEED to believe that Caddyshack II never happened. I'm looking at you Ackroyd.
5. Comedy is slowly dying. I always refer to the classics when i think of comedy. Monty Python, Airplane, Caddyshack, Ghostbusters, Blazing Saddles, Stripes, Young Frankenstein, Marx Brothers, Stooges, Bob Hope, Lucille Ball, and Vacation. I also include some of the good but not greats, like City Slickers, Beetlejuice, or Blind Date. I also make mention and pay respects to some of the new masters, like Knocked Up, 40 Year Old Virgin, Role Models, Grandma's Boy, and SOME Adam Sandler. These movies all had stories that were driven by their characters and the common sense to know that humor is bred from conflict and growth. Unfortunately the hackneyed, "Another.... movie" trend (after not Another Teen Movie, which was a true spoof) have kind of dumbed us down. Okay more accurate, theyn have Ex-Laxed our sense of humor out our asses. Need proof? Break-dancing Spartans. Set and match. Comedy must make you laugh and think, not just have funny situations. Situations are funny when the people in them react humorously to the situations. This last paragraph is more a cry for rescue than a humorous reflection.
Here is a short list of things that would have redeemed this movie:
1. Rodney Dangerfield - Even in death he is a God.
2. At least one breast. A side boob. A baby bottle nipple. Help me out here folks. Little Nicky had a boob..
3. Maybe a "what happened to the characters" end montage (ala American Graffitti).
4. A dancing gopher.
5. Intermittently switching Dane Cake in with Ryan Reynolds.
6. Use the amusement park footage from the Lost Boys.
7. The Coreys.
8. Leslie Nielsen.
9. A big old dance number.
10. Richard Kiel with a railroad spike through his head, "That's Mr. Gilmore's jacket!"