Adventureland (US - BD RA)
Gabe pukes on the Tilt-O-Whirl...and the Merry-Go-Round, and the Ferris Wheel...
James Brennan (Jesse Eisenberg) has just graduated college, and is looking forward to a trip to Europe with friends. But when James’ parents can’t afford to float him his graduation money, he loses his chance to travel, and is forced to find a summer job in hopes of paying his own way through grad school at Columbia. A lack of work expertise means the only job he can find is working crooked games at a local amusement park called ‘Adventureland’. The job is terrible, but James meets an intriguing young woman named Emily Lewin (Kristen Stewart), and an awkward series of life changing events unfold.
You’ve heard this story a thousand times. Maybe ten thousand times. Why would you ever want to hear it again? Is there anything about white suburban angst that hasn’t already been better said by filmmakers like John Hughes, Cameron Crowe, Kevin Smith, Wes Anderson and Judd Apatow? Haven’t we covered unrequited love, parental death, hatred of step-parents, casual drug use, fear of commitment, sad day jobs, damaged love interests, long lasting virginity, and discovery of self? Writer/director Greg Mottola, still riding high off of the semi-surprise hit Super Bad, is given a chance to make another personal, yet mainstream appropriate comedy concerning the arduous journey towards adulthood. Adventureland is conceptually a direct follow-up to Super Bad, covering a post-college, pre-grad school hell. The story, despite its apparently personal truth to Mottola’s real life, follows all the clichés of teen and twenty-something romances, and fulfills ‘80s period assumptions. Yet, the film works despite its extremely predictable narrative because Mottola brings a surprisingly novel style to the film.
Adventureland is similar to all the films of the aforementioned directors, but also features its own voice. It’s colourful like Anderson’s work, heavily improvised like Apatow’s work, and irreverently vulgar like Smith’s work, but shares more in common with Hughes and Crowe, likely due to its surprising streak of authenticity. It’s a period piece, but the use of period fashion and music doesn’t feel kitschy, and ignoring actors one could probably be convinced that the film was actually filmed in 1985. The weird mix of reality and an almost dream-like state produces the illusion of memory. Our minds only retain the ‘important events’, and the events in between practically no longer exist. I’m not sure if this was the intended effect, but it makes the movie special, and comparable to Crowe’s incredibly enduring Almost Famous. The tone is occasionally disturbed by more outrageous comedic moments, specifically the scenes involving Bill Hader as the amusement park manager, which were almost all used for the misleading trailer that implied a more John Apatow-ish feature.
Adventureland is a relatively cheap film, and realism is pretty paramount, so this clearly isn’t the most impressive 1080p transfer I’ve ever seen. The objectively, often hand-held film is pretty consistently grainy, and most of the colours are consistently infiltrated with opposing noise. The broadest daylight and brightest fluorescent club lighting created the cleanest hues, but overall there aren’t a lot of pristine moments. Colours are very bright and natural (if not a little bit too warm to be considered entirely natural), but do bleed a little bit, and fill up the otherwise deep blacks throughout. Despite the grain and noise, details are pretty sharp thanks to a lot of close-ups, and a pretty deep sense of focus. The rain soaked scene at the end of the film is probably the transfer’s finest moment, so look forward to that.
“Amadeus Amadeus, A-ma-deus…”. Music is the audio landscape of this film, but unlike most nostalgic trips the period music is largely represented through on screen sources, like car radios or the amusement park’s sound system. There aren’t many moments of ‘God’s soundtrack’ overwhelming the speakers, but this just makes for an even more authentic production. The location of the music leads to a few fun stereo and surround moments, and the park’s attendees and rides definitely feature throughout the channels, but mostly the production is aurally centric. The dialogue is clear without losing a sense of naturalistic sound. Most of the sound effects are found in the middle as well, and are placed with a relatively realist ear.
Greg Mottola and lead actor Jesse Eisenberg start extras off with an engaging if not soft spoken commentary track. Eisenberg acts as a solid interviewer/support engine for Mottola’s lead, which is brimming with personal information, lessons in filmmaking, and a whole lot of affection for the film’s music. The tone is dryly funny, and self effacing (Mottola says his director’s cut would’ve been 10 minutes shorter). Our commentators even manage to make the usual, mindless back slapping personal and fun. Mottola also scores points for a spot-on Scorsese impression.
‘Just My Life: The Making of Adventureland’ (16:30, SD) is a reasonably informative look behind the scenes made up of the usual mix of film scenes, raw behind the scenes footage, cast and crew interviews, and a few deleted sequences. Overall the tone is like that of most elongated trailers, and subject matter includes script writing, casting, location scouting, period costumes, and collaboration. Next up are three deleted scenes (2:30, SD), which clearly doesn’t cover the apparent hours of deleted footage alluded to during the commentary track. This is followed by a series of fun little featurettes, starting with ‘Frigo’s Ball Taps’ (2:30, HD), a look at all the art of crotch smacking, ‘Lisa P.’s Guide to Style’ (2:00, HD), a look at silly ‘80s fashion, and a four part ‘Welcome to Adventureland’ (4:30, SD and HD), a series of fake commercials, and fake employee training videos.
The ads for Adventureland are very misleading – it’s not a gag-a-minute, vulgar comedy, it’s an even-handed, and genuinely mature look at the awkward road to adulthood. Using Super Bad on the tagline doesn’t help matters. It’s not a good film from a story standpoint, as we’ve all seen this story before, but it’s made with an original voice, and portrays its narrative like a rich memory. The movie isn’t made to impress with impeccable audio or visuals, so don’t expect overwhelming hi-def video or sound, bit there aren’t any major problems either. Extras are a bit slim (there have to be more deleted scenes out there somewhere), but get the job done.
* Note: The images on this page are not representative of the Blu-ray release.
Review by Gabriel Powers
Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian
Release Date: 25th August 2009
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Extras: Director/Actor Commentary, Just My Life, Deleted Scenes, Frigo's Tap, Lisa P's Guide to Style, Welcome to Adventureland, Digital Copy
Easter Egg: No
Director: Greg Mottola
Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Ryan Reynolds, Kelsey Ford, Michael Zegen, Bill Hader
Genre: Comedy and Drama
Length: 107 minutes
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