Adventureland (2009) – Film Review

This comedy/drama from 2009 is an underrated classic in my opinion, as Greg Mottola (Superbad, Paul) brings us a simple yet effective story of two young people from different worlds meeting over one memorable summer, and while it may not be as hilarious as some of his other films. I do feel Greg Mottola has brought us a much more emotional story this time round, with the comedy not too far behind.

The story takes place in the summer of 1987, as a college graduate takes a ‘nowhere’ job at his local amusement park, only to find it’s the perfect course to get him prepared for the real world. Soon meeting new friends and sending him down a new life path. While nothing incredibly original in regards to storytelling, the film does make the most of it’s simple plot.

For a film like this, it’s crucial that the characters are well-established and likable, as in my opinion, drama only really works in film if the characters are developed enough to be invested in. Luckily, the film succeeds here, creating very funny and mostly realistic characters within only a short amount of time. As the film doesn’t waste anytime setting up it’s narrative and characters, but always does so in a way that doesn’t feel too fast-paced or forced. All of the cast are also pretty great here, as Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Kristen Wiig and Ryan Reynolds all have decent chemistry with each other, and don’t simply treat their characters as joke machines. Bill Hader as the park manager: ‘Bobby’ has to be my personal favorite however, purely through his hilarious dialogue.

The film also makes excellent use of it’s location. Being set in an amusement park local to the home of our protagonist, the film is always very inventive with the different locations within the park. Exploring new areas in each scene, with many areas even being used for comedy or to even reflect a character’s personality. This is also where the cinematography by Terry Stacey really shines, using the different rides and colourful back-lights as a beautiful backdrop for many great character moments.

The great original score by Yo La Tengo also helps with the classic 1980s atmosphere, being mostly subtle yet still effective in some scenes. Many other songs from the 80s are also used throughout the film however, everything from iconic classics to more unknown songs gets a short cameo. With all of this eventually adding up to a fantastic soundtrack, as well as another link back to the time-period.

With the film’s classic 1980s time-period, the film also has a great visual look throughout it’s run-time. Using a bright orange and blue colour palette to really enhance the appeal. Only a small note here, but the film also chooses to show the audience shots of: technology and various locations etc. to enhance the use of the time-period rather than have characters constantly mention it, a little detail I really appreciate it. My main issue with the film for me is it’s comedy, as mentioned, the film does have many comedic moments. But I simply feel the film has far more in regards to drama then in regards to comedy. As most memorable moments throughout the film are all for emotional purposes.

Although ‘Adventureland’ is nothing incredible in regards to it’s filmmaking, I really enjoy this film. I believe I’ll always find myself turning back to it when in need of a more up-beat comedy-drama. With a unique location and a great set of characters, there isn’t much to dislike here. The film’s comedy could be improved, but I wouldn’t say this drags the entire film down. Overall, I’d say this one is a 8/10, definitely check this one out if you can, I feel it really deserves more attention.

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