The latest from "Superbad" director Greg Mottola, "Adventureland" stars Jesse Eisenberg (trying to become the back-up for Michael Cera) as James Brennan, a college graduate in 1987 who is finding out that life after college isn't quite as easy as he'd planned. Intending to go to Europe for the Summer after graduation, he soon finds that his parents will not be able to support that dream, and instead he has to go looking for a Summer gig.
The end result is the Adventureland amusement park, a weathered place whose employees don't share the same sense of fun as the visitors - the rides look as if they're about to fall apart, while Jerry is warned not to let anyone win any of the giant panda dolls - because they're running out of them and, it's implied that the next giant panda delivery isn't coming anytime soon.
Still, James manages to meet a few new friends at the park, including maintenance man (and former rock star) Mike Connell (Ryan Reynolds), Lisa P (Margarita Levieva) and Em (Kirsten Stewart, of "Twilight" fame.) Despite his awkwardness, James tries his best to impress, and the two manage to have a nice spark with one another, despite James' ability to be impressively awkward. Eisenberg and Stewart have a nice chemistry with one another, and writer/director Mottola manages to let their romance play out in sweet, subtle scenes.
As a whole, the movie does an excellent job avoiding the expected crude humor, instead of going for a much more relaxed, naturalistic comedy/drama/coming-of-age tale. The movie lingers on the quiet moments, and the romance and drama has soul and feeling - and beyond that, feels surprisingly real. There's not a world of plot in "Adventureland" - aside from the core experience at the park and the romance, there's only a few other plot strands rotating around the core. Still, despite the lack of much story, the picture works in a similar, character-driven way to "Before Sunrise". Although "Adventureland" can seem a tad rambling at times, the lovely ending wraps things up just fine.
Overall, this is one of the best teen films in recent years, and it works thanks to a memorable script by Mottola, as well as a superb ensemble cast. While Eisenberg hasn't made much of an impression in the past, he turns in a terrific performance here, with a heartfelt, memorable performance in the lead. Stewart is also marvelous, portraying the hurt and heart of the character quite well. While Eisenberg and Stewart may seem like oil and water, they actually do have very nice chemistry with one another. I wasn't expecting - more or less - just another "teen" film from "Adventureland", but the picture was definitely a pleasant surprise.
VIDEO: "Adventureland" is presented by Miramax in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. This was generally a very good presentation, although it wasn't without some minor concerns at times. Sharpness and detail were a little uneven throughout the presentation, as while much of the picture appeared crisp and detailed, some interiors could appear a little softer in comparison, with so-so small object detail.
Aside from the varying sharpness, the picture generally looked good, with only a few minor instances of edge enhancement and artifacting. The print appeared crisp and clear, aside from one or two very slight specks. Colors appeared bright and well-saturated, with no smearing or other faults.
SOUND: The film's Dolby Digital 5.1 presentation remained dialogue-driven throughout the show, there's little in the way of noticeable surround use. Audio quality was fine, with clear, undistorted dialogue throughout the show and full, rich music (and there are some classic tunes throughout the film.)
EXTRAS: Commentary from director/writer Greg Mottola and actor Jesse Eisenberg, "Making Of" documentary and 3 deleted scenes.
Final Thoughts: I wasn't expecting - more or less - just another "teen" film from "Adventureland", but the picture is certainly a surprise, remaining engaging and heartfelt throughout. The DVD offers very good audio/video quality, as well as a few nice extras. Recommended.
The Film B