Adventureland (2009)

(On DVD, January 2011) As far as nostalgic coming-of-age comedies go, Adventureland is a bit better than the average.  Featuring post-teenage characters trying to figure out life from the vantage point of awful summer jobs, this is a film that exceeds expectations while paying homage to familiar material.  Set in 1987, the story centers around an intellectual college-age character forced to take a job at a local amusement park, where he meets radically different people and learns a few things about life outside school.  To its credit, the film understands that characters and actors are the bedrock on which this kind of small-scale drama fails or succeeds, and the script does well in establishing people with whom we’d want to spend 90 minutes.  The film is billed as a comedy, but it’s more affectionately romantic than overly funny –and it features a few plot points played differently than in other similar films.  Seeing Adventureland in early 2011 is already a different experience than upon its release in 2009, if only because its leads actors have been in many high-profile projects since then.  Jesse Eisenberg’s usual nebbish air works well here, whereas Kristen Stewart keeps playing “wounded” effectively and Ryan Reynolds is willing to let go of his winning persona to expose a deeply flawed character.  Writer/director Greg Mottola manages to deliver a retro reminiscence that doesn’t feel of interest solely to people of that time: The result may not be a barrel of laughs, but it will leave you smiling.  The DVD features a few extras, the best of which is a chatty commentary by director Mottola and star Eisenberg that starts out feeling meaningless, but eventually reveals a lot about the film’s autobiographical content, low-budget film-making and on-set shooting details.

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