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Adventureland (DVD Review)

17 Aug, 2009 By: John Latchem


Street 8/25/09
Box Office $16 million
$29.99 DVD, $39.99 two-DVD set, $44.99 Blu-ray
Rated ‘R’ for language, drug use and sexual references.
Stars Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Martin Starr, Ball Hader, Kristen Wiig, Ryan Reynolds.

With Superbad, director Greg Mottola cashed out with a ride on the Judd Apatow express. His follow-up, the semi-autobiographical Adventureland, couldn’t be more different. Writer-director Mottola has served up a low-key indie comedy that downplays the potential for raunch and is actually kind of a sweet love story about a transformative summer in a young man’s life.

The film stars Jesse Eisenberg (The Squid and the Whale), who rivals Michael Cera in his ability to make any conversation seem awkward, as James, who has to take a summer job to save money for grad school. Since he majored in comparative literature and has no actual skills, no one will hire him, and he ends up running carny games at a local amusement park. Once there, he encounters the usual assortment of characters, from the eccentric owners (“SNL” regulars Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig, who are always a welcome presence), to the down-on-his-luck maintenance man (Ryan Reynolds), to the sullen girl of his dreams, Em (Kristen Stewart).

Thanks to a handy stash of weed, James has no trouble fitting in, leading to a summer of learning, heartache and growth typical of a coming-of-age film. In setting the story at an old-fashioned amusement park, Mottola seems to have found the perfect metaphor for twentysomething angst. The work is depressing, the paycheck is lousy, and the game is rigged.

The movie takes place in 1987, and Mottola goes to great lengths to make his film feel like a relic of the 1980s without dumping on the decade too much.

The well-constructed disc includes a solid commentary with Mottola and Eisenberg, a few decent deleted scenes and a brief but informative making-of featurette. The package of extras is a lot like the film itself: just enough to get the point across without being excessive.

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