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Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Adventureland

Here it is Tuesday and while I saw Adventureland last Friday I still find myself at a loss for words to describe this movie with anything but… but what? Boredom? Contempt? Stupefaction? Disdain? Scorn? Ennui? Monotony? Tediousness? Hmmm. I think that last one is probably the closest to what I felt while watching the film, well that and the pain in my cheeks from biting down on them to keep awake through this snail-paced coming-of-age story which seems to be told in real time that drags on oh so s-l-o-w-l-y.

The (alleged) story, what little there is of it, takes place in 1987 and concerns recent college graduate James Brennan (Jesse Eisenberg; The Hunting Party). James still lives at home with his parents (Jack Gilpin; 21 and Wendy Malick; Confessions of a Shopaholic), who presently inform the young man that they aren’t going to be able to finance his planned summer trip abroad with his pals. As a matter of fact, they now expect him to get a job and actually earn some money of his own. Dear God! Can you imagine? A college graduate, in his 20s, essentially expected to find employment and save some money of his own to contribute to his planned move to New York to attend graduate school at pricey Columbia University. Unheard of cruelty!

I hate to say it, but one of my dearest friends in the entire world, whom I shall call Reagan, lives with two sons who suffer from this malingering malady even today. While their mother shovels snow in the winters, mows the lawn in the summers, cooks all their meals, cleans the house, does the laundry, and even drives them around because they’ve never even learned to drive, these two “boys” in their mid-twenties, both college educated, remain holed up in their rooms playing video games or watching movies all night and sleeping all day. The oldest couldn’t even be motivated to vote in the presidential election this past November because he’d have to put on his socks and shoes and then walk (!) the one block to the polling place in order to cast his ballot. Their father would like to wring their necks, but Reagan won’t allow it, so there they stay, unemployed, unattached (a euphemism for still being virgins as they look towards their 30s is just plain pathetic), and unable to take care of themselves. This troubles me on so many levels, as does the whole “normalcy” of this practice in Adventureland because it is not just James that lives like this. So does the objective of his affection, slutty Em (Kristen Stewart; Twilight), and, apparently, everyone else James ends up working with at the god-awful run-down amusement park called Adventureland. Oddly enough, this must be a phenomenon known only to the East Coast because I was living out West back in the ‘80s and I don’t remember anyone who would’ve wanted to live with their parents when they were in their early 20s, no matter how poor they were. They’d rather live with ten other people their own age in a three bedroom apartment and split the rent ten ways rather than live under Mom & Dad’s thumbs.

This place has about as much business being called Adventureland as hemorrhoids do being called butt pillows. It’s a complete and utter dump, full of cheesy games that can’t be won and rides that are questionably safe at best. The mechanic on duty, Mike Connell (Ryan Reynolds; Definitely, Maybe), may be a bit older than the rest of the crew, but he is as juvenile and lacking in responsibility, so whether he is lubing the machines regularly is anybody’s guess. He seems more interested in regularly lubing Em in his grandmother’s basement (I guess he skipped a generation), which is kind of icky considering he is a married man.

That is about all there is to the plot. In more skilled hands than writer Greg Mottola (The Daytrippers), Adventureland might have gone somewhere, but it just lags. Mottola directed last year’s Superbad, and it seems his forté to focus on the minutia of a film’s look instead of its script. His attention to detail of the late 80s period, to the music and the clothes is spot-on, but the characters are limp and so is he action. James is so passive that it is easy to understand why he is a college graduate and still a virgin. Em is played as one would expect Stewart to play her since Stewart is incapable of emoting anything except dour and depressed (or is that depressed and dour?). She has to be the most miserable excuse for “one of Hollywood’s fresh faces” that I’ve seen in years. Her very presence is cringe-producing, and she luckily has a role here that requires just that, so she can’t be faulted too much for her pouty, coma-inducing stares throughout Adventureland. Reynolds, on the other hand, ought to have known better, and my husband and I were both wondering during the movie (it was just that dull) who Reynolds owed a favor to as explanation for his participation in this bomb. Surely he didn’t do it for the money, the prestige, or the belief this was going to be a hit. Even if he is a complete moron, which I don’t think he is, his wife, Scarlett Johansson, is the queen of the indies, and she would be able to pick out a stinker from a mile away.

Bill Hader and Kristin Wiig, both currently of “Saturday Night Live”, were heavily advertised in the previews for the movie, are actually barely used in the film and sadly it looks like some of their funnier moments may have been excised from the final version. There are odd cuts that seem to break off set-ups to jokes before the pay-offs are delivered which leave Hader’s shtick looking lame and Wiig just hanging out like a part of the background. It’s a tragic misuse or lack of use of a some terrific comedic talent, but then again, Adventureland seems to be about nothing but a lack of ambition, so why should the director be expected to have any either. Do yourself a favor and don’t have any for this tired piece of nothingness. Go see Fast and the Furious instead.

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