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Review: Adventureland by DrChocolate


Kyle Terry is DrChocolate and my good friend from college who I asked to help me out with my movie reviews. My budget limits the amount of movies I can see and the good Dr, while having similar taste in movies as me, often has differing viewpoints that I think are valuable to the site.

Coming of Age. Like “sexually active” to Juno, I’ve never really been sure what that means. Regardless, quite a few films have been dedicated to capturing that moment in life and reflecting it back to its audience. Amongst this sub-sub-genre exist a few much-loved classics. The Breakfast Club. Dazed and Confused. Garden State. Among others. Add Adventureland to the list, and in my opinion – put it near the top. Up front and honest – I unabashedly adored this movie.

As with all great “coming of age” flicks, Adventureland made me nostalgic for times I’ve never lived, places I’ve never been, things I’ve never done, and people I’ve never met. I wanted to hit play again the instant it was over. It takes place in 1987 but this isn’t an “80’s movie,” its not a gimmick (again, like all great COA movies) it serves as a reference point and a mindset for the characters. The decade doesn’t intrude but enhances. Despite being accepted to grad school at Columbia and due to circumstances beyond his control, James, effortlessly played by Jesse Eisenberg, must suffer the indignity of working at a rundown amusement park the summer after completing his undergrad. His humiliation soon eases as he bonds with the other ragtag employees including the earnest nerd Joel, immature Frigo, and the beautiful Em. Romance ensues, hilarious mishaps occur, and parents and children disappoint each other. If it lacks one thing it’s that the plot is familiar – you kind of know what’s going to happen from the start, but that in no way detracts from the enjoyment of the film.

Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart (who plays Em) shine and have palpable chemistry, and the supporting cast, including SNL’s Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig, are hilariously, endearingly eccentric, but they never feel like caricatures or sketches. Ryan Reynolds’ caddish maintenance man is perhaps the only main character who suffers from thin writing, but he does what he can with the material. Greg Mottola has written and directed a sincere slice of life and love. It’s hard to believe this is the same guy who made the overrated, overlong, and overly crude Superbad.

I can’t overstate how much I enjoyed this movie. It’s funny, heartfelt, real, and has an expertly used soundtrack, including fantastic use of Lou Reed and Crowded House. This relatable tale of worst summer ever turning to best summer ever is highly, highly recommended.