Adventureland (Miramax, R)

film_adventure_sm.jpgOne seemingly obvious influence on Adventureland is Paul Feig’s 2005 memoir Superstud: Or How I Became a 24-Year-Old Virgin.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The poster for Adventureland says "From the director of Superbad" in huge letters across the top, and I can’t decide if that’s a good idea or not. Sure, Greg Mottola directed both Superbad and Adventureland, and those who liked Superbad will very likely enjoy Adventureland as well. The problem lies in the fact that Adventureland is perhaps a little too Superbad for its own good; movies with as much in common as these two are typically either remakes or sequels. To trumpet the fact that Mottola did them both (and back to back, no less) kind of makes him out to be a hack.

That said, I probably like Adventureland more than Superbad, and I like Superbad a lot. It’s perhaps most appropriate to imagine Adventureland as a sequel to Superbad (though it is not officially one), catching up with Michael Cera’s character immediately after graduating college (with Jesse Eisenberg, of The Squid & the Whale, taking over Cera’s role). He’s still a virgin, but now very educated, and deposited in his small, crappy hometown for a summer before going off to grad school at Columbia University. The catch is that his dad recently lost his job, and his parents can no longer afford to put him through grad school, so he has to take a job at Adventureland, a local theme park, so he can start saving money to pay his own way.

The problem is that studying English in college did not give Eisenberg’s James any kind of preparation for the crappy job market, and he never had to have a job prior to this because of the previous affluence of his parents. Of course, once he gets acclimated at Adventureland, James falls for a coworker (Twilight‘s Kristen Stewart, who is much better than I would have imagined), makes new friends (most notably Martin Starr, aka Bill from Freaks & Geeks), and, you know, learns about life.

With Adventureland, Mottola is now three for three, including his debut feature, the mostly forgotten (but still wonderful) The Daytrippers, which is really not much like Superbad or Adventureland at all. He’s a better director than what is immediately recognizable, which I like; in Adventureland, watch how he’ll let the camera linger on Martin Starr Errol Morris-style until Starr does something telling, whereas any other director would cut away from Starr as soon as he’s done talking and move on to the next joke. Considering The Daytrippers, too, Mottola has a lot more range than following up Superbad with Adventureland would seem to imply, but if you watch Adventureland closely, you’ll notice that it’s played almost as a drama a lot of the time, as opposed to the comedy that it is being sold as. The whole thing has a sort of melancholy tone that I appreciated in what is essentially yet another R-rated quest to lose one’s virginity.

Superbad aside, one seemingly obvious influence on Adventureland is Paul Feig (who, with Judd Apatow, created the much-beloved Freaks & Geeks) and his 2005 memoir Superstud: Or How I Became a 24-Year-Old Virgin; the tone of being a well-educated, not unattractive recent college graduate trying to lose their virginity differs tremendously with the high school senior trying to lose their virginity, and that is precisely the territory Mottola mines here. The connection that Mottola has read Feig’s book is reasonable enough, too, as Mottola has been connected to the Apatow gang since directing a handful of episodes of Undeclared back in 2001, and also he directed a few episodes of Arrested Development (which Feig also directed from time to time) in and around 2003. Feig isn’t thanked in the credits as Apatow is, but I guess even if I’m right about the Feig influence, Mottola has to distance himself somewhat from Superstud, because if he had based the film on that (or God forbid named it after it), no one would ever be able to believe that the film is not a sequel to Superbad. | Pete Timmermann

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