Saturday, April 04, 2009

ADVENTURELAND

When I saw Be Kind Rewind at the theater last year, rows of seats were packed with bodies of the 14 to 19 year-old persuasion. When the movie finished, many of the young ones quietly booed and hissed at having to impatiently sit through something that never paid off. My guess is that they were expecting another Jack Black riot fest along the lines of Orange County, School of Rock, or Tenacious D. Instead, they got a sensitive offbeat film about movie love sprouting from the shelves of a corner video store.

That same kind of frustration is likely to occur in theaters across America this weekend as teens and young adults rush to see the new comedy Adventureland, a movie that's been misleadingly marketed (for about 4 months now) as a kind of Superbad 2. And not for odd reason. Greg Mottola is the director of that 2007 male-centric teen sex neurosis comedy (and yes, very possibly misogynistic comedy... I would accept that). The first 30 minutes of Superbad were fueled by a more-accurate-than-critics-gave-it-credit-for foul stream of obnoxiousness dialogue that nailed the sex-obsessed mind of a 17 year-old. Internal porn site deliberation and strapping down your boner with the elastic band in your underwear were funny because they happen.

The use of the Violent Femme's "Blister in the Sun" in Adventureland's trailer is equally misleading with its bouncing carefree sexual glee-lyrics about masturbation. Adventureland's teens are of a mind set already past the discovery of that curious perversion. Instead, Mottola's film truly hangs on the songs of The Replacements, Big Star, and The Velvet Underground. And not just "songs" by those bands, but the top-shelf lovesick trophies that those groups have cemented their legacies on: "Unsatisfied", "I'm In Love With a Girl", "Here She Comes Now". And while it's a little more than ridiculous to see Jesse Eisenberg sipping whiskey at a bar after punching in "Pale Blue Eyes" on the jukebox, you'll forgive the illogic of it because its drama is appropriate.

A movie like Adventureland is labeled a comedy simply because no other genre label fits it. Sure, there are plenty of laughs, but this is a comedy like Almost Famous is a comedy. In fact, Adventureland could be called the anti-Superbad. Seth and Evan wanted to become "Iron Chefs at pounding vag" while James (Eisenberg) passes up sex because of a personal dilemma brought on by a Shakespeare sonnet. Working with his own script this time, Mottola carefully observes the star-crossed relationship at an age when our brains aren't sophisticated enough to deal with it. It's a matter of the mind questioning the heart when mind is still pretty stupid. This is what Nick & Nora's Infinite Playlist should have been.

20 comments:

Megan said...

I am looking forward to seeing this, we are planning on going tomorrow night.

My 15 yr old loved Be Kind Rewind. But, you know, a child of mine is, by default, exceptional. :)

Fox said...

Megan-

I can't wait hear what you have to say about it.

And it's ok to boast about your child. When I was that age I probably woulda been disappointed by Be Kind Rewind like the kids at my screening were.

As an adult, I still think that movie is super undervalued.

Craig said...

I liked it too.

hokahey said...

I just got home from seeing this movie and even though I knew not to expect Superbad 2, I found this film's depiction of post-graduate reality to be so realistic it hurt. But I think movie-goers in general have already caught on that this is not a light raunch-fest; there was hardly anyone else in the theater. Too bad.

Rick Olson said...

Hey Fox, you know we agree again, and it's getting scary. Not about Adventureland -- I haven't seen it -- but about Rewind, which I think is seriously underrated.

Fox said...

Craig-

I will be checking out your write-up shortly!

Hokahey-

Yeah. My friend just told me that it bombed for the weekend, and so I went and looked at the numbers at it only pulled in $6 million. It was only 1800 screens, but still. I honestly thought some of the Twilight fans would go b/c of Kristen Stewart, but I guess not.

Rick-

Give in... just give in, man!

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bill r. said...

I want to see Adventureland, but I am one of the people undervaluing Be Kind Rewind. The damn thing just didn't work, and it wasn't half as clever as it thought it was. Is what I think about it.

Craig said...

Bill - I would describe "Adventureland" as more of a cross between "Say Anything" and "Dazed and Confused," definitely an early-Cameron Crowe/early-Linklater vibe. Fox is right, though, in that it's a movie that's probably going to illicit snickers from its (male) audience members putting up their deflector shields against that degree of emotional intimacy. I predicted in my review that it's the kind of movie that'll find its audience after its initial release.

bill r. said...

Fox is right, though, in that it's a movie that's probably going to illicit snickers from its (male) audience members putting up their deflector shields against that degree of emotional intimacy.

That wouldn't be a stumbling block for me. I read a review of it recently that made it sound a little bit like Freaks & Geeks, so I think I'll be fine.

Greg said...

I haven't seen any of these. Just wanted to stop by and tell Fox that Jarvis' list is up at The Invisible Edge.

I can see movies with teens as characters but right now, with teens in the house that annoy the living shit out of me, I have no, absolutely no desire to see any of them. Give me a few years. Right now I'm too annoyed by how utterly self-important teens are to be able to see any one of these films without feeling utter disdain.

Fox said...

Hey guys-

Sorry for the inaction today. Busy work day. (Plus... IT'S OPENING DAY!)

I think Craig makes a fitting comparison to Dazed and Confused as far as structure, but what I liked about Adventureland - in comparison to D & C - is that it wasn't always trying to be so aware of its era. True, there is the music (and music references), but there isn't a overriding "Hey, remember how goofy the 80's were!" schticky thing going on. That was refreshing.

And Bill, Greg Mottola directed some episodes of Undeclared, so the Freaks and Geeks thing makes sense. Plus, Martin Starr is in it as well. He's good too.

Greg-

I can't wait to go see JARVIS' picks!

Bob Turnbull said...

Count another fan of "Adventureland" here. There's lots to like about this film - the characters, the performances, the MUSIC, the warmth, the bittersweetie-ness, all those little inserts of the city and the amusement park between scenes...

I love the "Say Anything" mixed with "Dazed and Confused" with a splash of "Freaks and Geeks" comparison.

By the way, I liked "Be Kind Rewind" as well. The ending didn't quite work for me even though I really wanted it to...

Fox said...

Bob-

The music is so great, isn't it?

I didn't even mention it in the post, but the use of "Just Like Heaven", "Don't Dream It's Over", and "Don't Change" within the movie are great.

But I don't think an actual soundtrack is out yet. It isn't availble at BestBuy.com, Amazon, or even the local record store at the moment.

Bob Turnbull said...

I mentioned that over at Jeremy's "Moon In The Gutter" - "Don't Change" put a huge smile on my face and "Just Like Heaven" was so perfectly used for that scene. Don't forget Judas Priest's "Breaking The Law"! I always had a bit of a fondness for Shannon's "Let The Music Play" too.

I felt a bit queasy seeing that clip from the Poison video, but it also elicited a big laugh from me. And the queasiness...

PIPER said...

I would compare this less with Almost Famous and more with Dazed and Confused. Both films suffered from bad marketing. Dazed and Confused is so much more than a stoner film and Adventureland is so much more than a teen sex comedy.

But I thought this was an excellent film. Perfect for what it wanted to be. If only all romantic movies could be this good.

Fletch said...

I like the Dazed/Say Anything comparison. It rings pretty true for a number of reasons. I also like the Linklater reference because I felt shades of Before Sunrise at times.

I think the audience for this will be found in time, and it will be big. Give it some time.

My favorite flick of the new year.

Keith said...

I've been wanting to see this. I've talked to some friends that really enjoyed it. I hate that it's being marketed as something akin to Superbad though.

Fox said...

Fletch-

Umm... why do you have Nic Cage's photo as your profile pic??? I thought he was your # 1 enemy.

Keith-

Yeah. I like Superbad, but it's disingenuous, and really, unfair to the movie that they market it that way. Ah well. I think what Fletch said about this movie growing in popularity will be true.

Fletch said...

RE: my Cage 'tar. I used the pic for a recent post bemoaning Knowing's #1 place at the box office and I thought it was a great, hilarious pic of my nemesis. And I was hoping to get reactions just like yours. :D

BTW - you can listen to the soundtrack at lala.com. I just did this morning. I too am a big fan. I'd forgotten how good of a song "Don't Change" is, and, looking back, I can't believe it came out in '82. That makes it even better.