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Category:    Home > Reviews > Comedy > Drama > Teens > Adventureland (2009/Miramax Blu-ray + DVD)

Adventureland (2009/Miramax Blu-ray + DVD)

 

Picture: B/C+†††† Sound: B-/C+†††† Extras: B/B-†††† Film: B

 

 

After Superbad, Producer Judd Apatow received the lionís share of the credit for its success and has been the driving force of a whole new cycle of comedies that often work.However, it is the director who ultimately makes the film and while Apatow has proved he can helm a film, it was Greg Mottola who was behind Superbad.In his follow-up film, Adventureland, he breaks away from working with Apatow and comes up with what is easily one of the best films of 2009.

 

Jesse Eisenberg (in his best work to date) plays James Brennan, it is 1987 and he has just graduated from college.Thinking he is going to Europe, he is in for a rude awakening when it turns out his father has been downsized, so he is stuck staying home for the summer and needing to find a job.With the bad Reagan economy in its onset, he lands up working at the amusement park of the title and it looks to be a somewhat miserable time.

 

Not helping is his dysfunctional, idiotic, one-time best friend Tommy Frigo (an amusingly obnoxious performance by Matt Bush), then he meets his wacky new park manager employers (Bill Hader, Kristen Wiig) and two very different women.One is Lisa P (Margarita Levieva), a overly sexual ride employee who loves dance music and fancies herself connected to the biggest dance music icons of the day (her name is like that of one of Princeís women, her look like Madonna) who is the temptation of every man around.Then there is Em Lewin (Kristen Stewart, Twilight) who is on games and befriends James during a difficult customer incident.

 

He likes Em very much, though to even his shock, he starts talking with Lisa P and she gives him more of the time of day than most men.James also meets a ride mechanic named Mike (Ryan Reynolds) who is also a musician who claims to have played with Lou Reed and has been around more summers than he should.He also has more than a secret thing going with Em, which becomes a wild card when Lisa P comes a calling.

 

And that is just the beginning of what transpires in this very honest, sometimes painfully ugly film about the late teen years, people being stuck unhappy in life and continues the kind of honesty that made Superbad work.However, this is an even deeper, more complex work like no teen comedy we have seen in a long time.Ironically, I think it becomes a flip-side to Scott Smithís grossly underrated Roller Coaster (1999, reviewed elsewhere on this site) and joins the likes of David Gordon Greenís George Washington (2000) and Richard Kellyís Donnie Darko (2001) as the very few films about growing up made in the last decade or so that really matter.

 

Though Eisenberg is accused of playing the same character over and over again, he is actually able to offer more range because James has so much more nuance than most characters he has played.Stewart has been impressive since co-staring with Jodie Foster in David Fincherís Panic Room and has rightly become one of the biggest rising stars of her generation.I was also happy to see Ryan Reynolds take on a challenging supporting role in some of the best work of his career.

 

Overall, the film starts as a comedy of sorts and seems like so much we have seen before, but by the time you take in all the characters, you realize so much more is going on here and that makes Adventureland a classic of its genre.Mottola is moving on to a commercial comedy next, but if any film deserves to have a continuation it is this.Mottola is now one of the most important independent filmmakers around and sadly, one of the few.Adventureland is a must-see for all serious film fans.

 

 

The 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image has some minor motion blur not on the 35mm print and other minor limits, but looks as good as an independent film can other wise on Blu-ray with good color reproduction and a clean source.The film was shot in 35mm Fuji film, which has color that is not as naturalistic as Kodak stocks, yet it plays perfectly with the idea of an old amusement park in an aging area.The anamorphically enhanced DVD is watchable, but much softer throughout and does not capture how well Director of Photography Terry Stacey (American Splendor) shot this so well in a breakthrough work.

 

The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 24/48 lossless 5.1 mix includes many hit records that fit the film very well, as well as a theme song by Yo La Tengo that fits the narrative exceptionally well, but the soundmix lacks an overall dynamic feel.It is likely more due to the budget limits of the film than any attempt to make it sound like the mid-1980s, but it is also dialogue-based so expect some audio to sound and feel like a monophonic recording.Still, it sounds better than many 1980s teen films just the same and is good enough.The DVD only has a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix which is weaker and can be more trying.

 

Extras include Digital Copy on the Blu-ray edition, plus Blu-ray exclusive extras including Lisa Pís Guide To Style, Frigoís Tops (on the shirts his character made for himself) and a collection of faux ads for the amusement park dubbed Welcome To Adventureland.Both versions include a really entertaining audio commentary by Mottola and Eisenberg, amusing deleted scenes, picture music selection and Just My Life, a making of featurette.

 

 

-†† Nicholas Sheffo


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