Monday, April 20, 2009

Adventureland (2009, Greg Mottola)

Judd Apatow's influence can be felt even in lesser comedies as Adventureland ultimately barely holds on as a feature resembling a series of vignettes from a television series. Martin Star feels like an older version of his Freaks and Geeks persona while star Jessie Eisenberg could be the stand-in F&G's young star John Francis Daley, with all his bland affability. Vulgar Apatow comparisons are further warranted by the amount of wish fulfillment involved in Eisenberg's verbosely overeducated, naive hero's choice of losing his virginity to hot bimbo Catholic girl Margarita Levieva or neurotic Jewish girl Kristen Stewart, who's also sleeping with Ryan Reynolds. Even through F&G's rose colored sitcom glasses Reynolds would kick Eisenberg's ass at some point, yet here he does not. The cast is full of stock characters and everyone brings a touch of humanity. Bill Hader's part was featured prominently in the trailers and gave the impression of the most rollicking romp at the worst Summer job ever, yet even his wackiness is in measured doses. So even the crappy job that gives license to misbehave isn't all bad. The main fantasy is having those two girls fighting over you. Oh, and having enough unsupervised time at your job to get high every reel.

Mottola is a director with personal visions of remembered youth and his increasingly numerous contemporaries have depicted the 1980s to either incidental importance (Noah Baumbach's The Squid & The Whale, Freaks & Geeks) or hilarity through period detail, probably best exemplified by Richard Kelly's Donnie Darko's hilarious use of motivational videos, startling use of child pornography in mainstream culture from the period, and linking of the two. Only a couple times does Adventureland dip into TV Reagan cameos or hair metal karaoke for cheap laffs. The rest of the time Mottola brings our nation's collective infatuation with 80s sex to a boiling point by dressing Margarita Levieva in every spandex tablecloth-patterned outfit he could find and leaving little of her hair un-crimped. The cheese was really starting to stink at the end of that decade, but hey, some like stinky cheese. Thanks, Greg!

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