Back when dinosaurs roamed the earth (1987, according to this movie), kids just out of high school used to get dull, boring, crappy summer jobs to help pay for their college education. Such jobs still exist, even if juvenile fiscal responsibility is extinct.
In “Adventureland,” currently playing at The Visulite in Staunton, director Greg (“Superbad”) Mottola attempts to recapture those bad old days and succeeds in making bad memories even worse. Although he’s recruited an interesting young cast that includes Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart, the plot is as old and creaky as the setting.
Let’s face it, amusement parks are sad places to start with, and “Adventureland” is set in Kennywood, the Pittsburgh playground that dates back to the Piltdown era. And in this summer jobs saga, our gang of young adults assemble to work the scammy games and hokey rides while the lads lust, the gals wiggle, and all spend much of their time smoking doobies, drinking hard liquor, and complaining about how dull and pointless life is.
Eisenberg’s a good young actor, with kudos for “The Squid and the Whale” (2005) and “Roger Dodger” (2002) already on his resume. You’d better get used to seeing him, as he has six more movies in the can, ready for release later this year.
His laid-back, self-loathing object d’amour is played by upcoming Kristen Stewart (“Twilight,” “Jumper” so far this year), and his loser parents by Jack Gilpin and Wendie Malick. They’re simply sad sacks.
“Saturday Night Live”’s Bill Hader and Kristen Wigg are in the supporting cast, trying desperately to pump some energy and/or humor into this drab script, to no avail. And Matt Bush, as one of Eisenberg’s sidekicks, should get the award for the year’s most obnoxious second banana. By the time he’s showed up twice in the film, you’re ready to strangle him.
Eisenberg plays the umpteen-thousandth sensitive young man in movies, all based on Holden Caulfield, trying to make enough money for college while putting his slutty lady love on a pedestal. Long live teen angst! We should all have such problems.
Actually, the most fun in the movie is reserved for us Pittsburghers, who can at least pass this dreary couple of hours picking out familiar landmarks. Not much there for anyone else, but yinz are all invited to become even more fascinated by the home of the Champion Steelers this week now that “The Mysteries of Pittsburgh” has opened. The city with the second-most number of bridges in the whole world is becoming a hot item, movie-settingwise.
Why didn’t I agree with the 88 percent of movie critics that simply adored this film? Well, frankly I resent movies about boredom. I don’t go to the movies to wallow in a pit of tedium. I can do that at home. And while I realize that young people do have problems, somehow their travails diminish in the light of global warming, world hunger, wars, and a fragile economy.
So do not expect too much if you are drawn, for some strange reason, to visit “Adventureland.” You’ve seen it all before, and in this one the bar is set particularly low. Unless, of course, you find bored nerds standing around lusting after butt-waving hot chicks to be new and hilarious film fare.
– Column by Carl Larsen