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Greg Mottola
Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Kristen Wiig, Michael Zegen, Ryan McFarland, Jack Gilpin, Wendie Malick, Ryan Reynolds
Writing Credits:
Greg Mottola

It was the worst job they ever imagined ... and the best time of their lives.

It's the summer of 1987, and James Brennan (Jesse Eisenberg), an uptight recent college grad, can't wait to embark on his dream tour of Europe. But when his parents (Wendie Malick and Jack Gilpin) announce they can no longer subsidize his trip, James has little choice but to take a lowly job at a local amusement park. Forget about German beer, world-famous museums and cute French girls - James' summer will now be populated by belligerent dads, stuffed pandas, and screaming kids high on cotton candy. Lucky for James, what should have been his worst summer ever turns into quite an adventure as he discovers love in the most unlikely place with his captivating co-worker Em (Kristen Stewart), and learns to loosen up.

Box Office:
Opening Weekend
$5.722 million on 1862 screens.
Domestic Gross
$16.025 million.

Rated R

Widescreen 1.85:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1
Thai Dolby Surround 2.0
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 107 min.
Price: $44.99
Release Date: 8/25/2009

• Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Greg Mottola and Actor Jesse Eisenberg
• Deleted Scenes
• “Just My Life: The Making of Adventureland” Featurette
• Picture Music Selection
• “Frigo’s Ball Tap” Featurette
• “Lisa P’s Guide to Style” Featurette
• “Welcome to Adventureland” Commercials/Videos
• Digital Copy
• Previews


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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Adventureland [Blu-Ray] (2009)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (August 24, 2009)

Superbad director Greg Mottola follows up on that hit with another teen “coming of age” tale via 2009’s Adventureland. Set in 1987, we meet James Brennan (Jesse Eisenberg), a recent college graduate who looks forward to a fun summer in Europe. This goes bye-bye when his dad (Jack Gilpin) gets demoted and his family comes up low on funds. To afford grad school in the fall, James needs to land a summer job.

Where does he end up employed? Adventureland, a low-rent amusement park. While there, he meets Em (Kristen Stewart), another employee, and they seem to share a good romantic connection. However, Em maintains an affair with Connell (Ryan Reynolds), an aspiring musician/park handyman who cheats on his wife with her. James remains unaware of the connection between Em and Connell while he falls in love with her.

“Coming of age” flicks are a dime a dozen, but I had pretty high hopes for Adventureland. Superbad offered an entertaining piece of work, and it looked like this one could provide a somewhat more mature take on the same kind of material.

And it does, though it may go too far in the opposite direction. Adventureland largely ignores the wildness of Superbad, which is fine. Unfortunately, I get the feeling Mottola wants to prove he’s not a one-trick pony; rather than be defined by the antics of Superbad, Adventureland feels like Mottola’s choice to show his Serious Artiste side.

Well, not totally; it does feature a lot of profanity, vomiting, and a character who loves to punch guys in the nuts. However, those elements remain pretty minor, and the movie takes on a low-key tone so subdued that it nearly becomes comatose.

Which is too bad, as it leaves its characters adrift. Although the film concentrates heavily on them, it never develops them into interesting personalities. James fails to turn into much more than the cliché nerd, while Em remains a conflicted young woman without much to her beyond a sad backstory. They do change a bit as the movie progresses, but the flick keeps them so bland that they never engage us.

It probably doesn’t help the James usually annoys us with his literary allusions and pretensions, and Eisenberg’s performance doesn’t add any likeability. Indeed, Eisenberg gives us a serious Michael Cera vibe, and I don’t regard that as a good thing. Cera’s mumbly nerd act got old quickly, so an actor who essentially emulates him doesn’t prove any more enjoyable.

Advenureland boasts a strange connection to its era. It occasionally nods in the direction of the 1980s but it usually feels like something set in 2009. The movie features period-appropriate music and the occasional Eighties-looking character, but most of the time the actors and sets would fit right into a story set in modern times. I get the impression Mottola wanted the comedic potential associated with 80s flicks but didn’t want to make something that looked period.

I wouldn’t mind that so much if the movie wasn’t so damned dry and free from energy. Mottola based the story on his own life, but I get the impression that the events mean a lot more to him than they will to us. The result seems self-indulgent. Mottola appears to enjoy re-exploring his youth, but it doesn’t work. The summer in question may’ve been significant for him, but they don’t translate into entertainment for the audience.

Adventureland wants to create a vivid character piece, but it lacks the style and verve to interest us. Without interesting participants or anything particularly dynamic, the movie just toddles along on a road to nowhere.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B+/ Audio C/ Bonus B-

Adventureland appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. Only some minor concerns kept this one from greatness.

My main complaint related to source flaws. Did I see lots of defects through the film? No, but occasional white specks appeared, and I thought these were a little too frequent for a brand-new movie. Still, the print concerns were minor and not a terrible distraction.

Everything else about the transfer excelled. Sharpness consistently looked crisp and well-defined, without any signs of softness or fuzziness. Edge enhancement was absent, and neither moiré effects nor jaggies marred the presentation.

In terms of colors, the film went with a generally natural palette that added a mild golden tint typical of period flicks. Overall, the hues looked quite good, as the movie boasted lively, full tones. Blacks showed nice darkness and delineation, while shadows appeared clear and accurate. Without the specks, this would’ve been an “A”-level presentation.

Fewer positives attached themselves to the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Adventureland. The disc’s producers mastered the mix at an awfully low level, so I needed to jack up the volume to get it to a listenable level, and even then, the audio lacked oomph. Music seemed surprisingly ordinary, as the many pop/rock songs usually failed to deliver great range and impact.

Effects were a little more satisfying, though they didn’t have much to do. A Fourth of July sequence boasted decent punch from fireworks, and effects showed good accuracy overall, but they were so laid-back that they didn’t have much to do. Speech was intelligible but somewhat flat as well; the lines showed a little more sibilance than usual.

Don’t expect much from the film’s soundfield. Music demonstrated appropriate stereo imaging and occasionally spread to the surrounds; the songs were appropriately rendered. Effects played a small role in the proceedings, and they usually focused on environmental elements. While I didn’t anticipate much pizzazz from a character piece like this, I would’ve thought the amusement park setting would lend itself to more action. Instead, the mix remained subdued and lackluster. This was a decidedly average presentation.

When we head to the set’s extras, we open with an audio commentary from director Greg Mottola and actor Jesse Eisenberg. Both sit together for this running, screen-specific chat. They look at cast, characters and performances, story inspirations and autobiographical elements, sets and locations, musical selections, editing, deleted scenes and story changes, and visual choices.

While nearly as low-key as the film itself, the commentary proves much more enjoyable. Eisenberg contributes the occasional thought, but Mottola does most of the work here as he details elements of the production. We learn a good array of topics and get a lot from this educational track.

Three Deleted Scenes run a total of two minutes, 27 seconds. These include “Drunk Mom in Office” (0:35), “Angry Grandfather” (0:55) and “James Keeps Quiet” (0:57). The last one simply offers unnecessary love triangle exposition, but the other two provide some funny material from the Bill Heder and Kristen Wiig characters. Neither really fits into the movie, but I wish they’d been included since they give us rare entertainment.

We can watch these with or without commentary from Mottola and Eisenberg. They tell us some background about the scenes as well as the reason they were cut. They offer enough useful info to make their quick remarks worth a listen.

Next comes the 16-minute, 31-second Just My Life: The Making of Adventureland. We find notes from Mottola, Eisenberg, producers Anne Carey and Ted Hope, and actors Kristen Stewart, Bill Heder, Kristen Wiig, Paige Howard, Martin Starr, Ryan Reynolds, Matt Bush and Margarita Levieva. We hear about the film’s origins and autobiographical elements, cast and performances, the amusement park location, period details and visual design, and Mottola’s style as director.

“Life” provides an erratic featurette, as it can’t decide whether to promote the movie or to give us good behind the scenes material. We don’t really learn a ton about the flick, but we do find some interesting outtakes and a deleted scene not found elsewhere on the disc. Those elements make it worth a look.

For an alternate form of chapter search, we find Picture Music Selection. This allows you to jump to any of the 28 pop/rock tunes featured in the film. It doesn’t seem particularly useful to me, but it doesn’t cause any harm.

An odd featurette, Frigo’s Ball Taps goes for two minutes, 34 seconds. Actor Matt Bush demonstrates the various methods his character uses to punch guys in the nuts. It’s odd but also kind of amusing.

Another quirky piece arrives via the two-minute, eight-second Lisa P’s Guide to Style. Actor Margarita Levieva plays in character as she talks about her fabulous 80s look. It’s fairly annoying and campy, but Levieva’s sexy, so I don’t really mind.

Finally, Welcome to Adventureland presents five “classic commercials and employee videos”. In total, these run five minutes, 39 seconds. We see a little of these during the movie, though not much, so it’s fun to view them uncut here.

A few ads open the disc. We get clips for Extract, 10 Things I Hate About You, Miramax Films and Blu-ray Disc. These also appear in the Sneak Peeks area along with promos for The Proposal, Scrubs, and Lost. No trailer for Adventureland appears here.

Finally, a second disc provides a Digital Copy. As usual, it allows you to transfer the film to a portable viewing device or a computer. Knock yourself out!

I went into Adventureland with high hopes for a satisfying “coming of age” piece. Unfortunately, the film takes itself way too seriously, and it suffers from such a severe lack of energy that it makes its 107-minute running time feel much, much longer. The Blu-ray boasts very good picture but offers mediocre audio. Although not packed with extras, the components we find are pretty interesting. While full of promise, Adventureland disappoints as a movie.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.1428 Stars Number of Votes: 7
2 3:
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Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main