Tuesday, April 28, 2009

4/28/09: Adventureland (2009)

There's this movie plot, see? It goes something like this: two characters meet and start dating, but there's this terrible lie/secret one is withholding from the other. The romance continues until the terrible secret is exposed, leading to the inevitable breakup, which always lasts 15-20 minutes until the predictable reconciliation, where everybody lives happily ever after. So here's my question: HOW MANY MORE FUCKING TIMES am I going to be subjected to this cinematic retread? There's this feeling I get in the pit of my stomach each time I'm sitting in a darkened movie theater when I realize to my shock and disgust that I've been duped into seeing it again. I've lost count of all the times I have been subjected to regurgitations of the Big Lie movie, usually with slight modifications but always, always with the same basic construct in place. Adventureland is the latest example of how this mind-numbingly overused idea has somehow inspired numerous positive reviews from respectable critics. I freely admit that there is the occasional film that puts some fresh spin on the plot or is otherwise funny enough to warrant seeing it yet again (Tootsie is a great example of the former; About a Boy is an example of the latter), but this ain't it.

Set in the early 1980s, Adeventureland serves up the Big Lie plot in the form of a Fast Times at Ridgemont High-type comedy with characters endlessly puking, porking, toking and, of course, playing Centipede. Two high-school grads (the appealing Jesse Eisenberg and Twilight's Kristen Stewart) meet and start dating while working at a local third-rate amusement park to earn money for college. Stewart's deception is a lie of omission: she's also dating the park's mechanic/heartthrob (Ryan Reynolds), who happens to be married but boinking Stewart on the sly. Yet Stewart is drawn to Eisenberg, because he's cool—he doesn't listen to uncool music embraced by the masses, music by Duran Duran or The Eagles; he gives her mixed tapes with really cool underground tunes by Lou Reed and The Replacements and The New York Dolls. (The movie exists primarily as an advertisement for its own ultracool soundtrack CD.) Here's the main problem: the script works overtime to underscore how cool and nonconformist its leading characters are while simultaneously trapping them in the corniest movie plot in the history of cinema.

Besides the star-crossed lovers, there are various other geeks, bullies and hussies working at and visiting the park to add flavor and color, including one lad who takes glee in giving his friends a sucker punch to the groin. And if you think that's hilarious, brother, you're just going to flip for Adventureland. Kristen Stewart—so much a carbon copy of Ally Sheedy that there were times I was sure it was Ally Sheedy—is very easy on the eyes, but the movie is, to put it charitably, extremely lightweight fare. Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig from Saturday Night Live, who have been much funnier elsewhere, provide a few welcome chuckles. Rating: 2/5.

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