As the second movie review for the blog, Adventureland seems like a perfect choice. It’s not as by-the-numbers and predictably hilarious as “I Love You, Man,” or as mind-numbingly moderately-amusing as “Monsters vs. Aliens.” Instead, it comes as a complete surprise, an intelligent coming-of-age tale that separates itself from the rest of the indie-cred grasping crowd with a darker tone and surprisingly few low gags (despite the frequency of sack taps.)
Going into it, I expected a decent, wistful look at a wasted summer spent in the employ of an eccentric amusement park owner, but I didn’t anticipate a film of such a high caliber to pop onto the screen. It will draw immediate comparisons to “Garden State,” what with its eccentric, music buff-pleasing soundtrack (The Replacements!), young cast, quirky characters and dreamy romance, but it’s a much more well-rounded film.
“Garden State” teetered on the edge of the surreal at times, with the giant hole, super-rich bow-totting friend, Natalie Portman’s bizarre house, the theory that the Shins can change someone’s life and the all-too fast love struck between Zach Braff and Portman. “Adventureland,” keeps itself well grounded, nothing in the film is neatly resolved and characters are multi-dimensional (Ryan Reynolds does an excellent job making the de facto villain equally manipulative and pitiful.)
“Adventureland” is a brilliant reflection what happens during those arduous summers when grandiose, big-city college plans fail and grand dreamers from English classes crash down to the reality of menial grunt work, seeking company in their co-workers and trying to compensate for sexual inadequacy through dishonest and deceptively innocent means.
The theme park itself, an antiquated locale littered with broken rides, scrap metal, sweater-carrying yuppies and deceptive games is a perfect backdrop for the drama that builds throughout the movie. Like a visit to such a park, you’ll wince at times, shake your head at some of the attractions, pity with some of the attendees but ultimately leave fulfilled, despite the the discomfort that arises at times. It’s a film built upon the battle between earnestness and disenchanted cynicism, with awkwardness ensuing not from zany antics but from genuine mistakes and misunderstanding. Not all relationships ride as smoothly as those in “Garden State,” some are toss you about the kart, teasing you with whiplash and rockily grating against the wooden supports. But they, like “Adventureland,” are ultimately far more fulfilling.