Adventureland Review

Its getting so that every time I go to see a movie I have to expect some sort of unpleasant surprise or another. This movie was no exception. Its really too bad because it would have been a really nice way to ease in to the coming summer blockbuster season with a cute, irreverent, well written comedy. This movie is that and that would have been more than enough, but, you see, Hollywood just can’t help itself.

Directing

I have to admit I could become a big fan of Greg Mottola’s directing. The pace of the movie is just right, the acting is kept at a nice, subtle level, and comedic timing is spot on. The writing is, of course, key to a comedy and in this case it’s very good and it’s also done by Mr. Mottola. It seems that Mr Mottola matured artistically far more than just the two years that have passed since Superbad would indicate. Compared to that, Adventureland is a slick polished jewel that undulates through subplots with the grace of a lean, sinuous, expert belly dancer in her prime.

Acting

Jesse Eisnenberg as the leading young man gave a performance that in anything other than a comedy would have critics take notice. In a world awash with over actors, method actors, God only knows what other kind of actors it’s good to see someone this young and with this much on-screen self control.

Opposite Jesse Eisenberg is Kristen Stewart playing Em Lewin, an NYU college student spending her summer slumming as a carny in her hometown’s amusement park. If there is a weak link in this movie, and it’s a big if, it is Ms. Stewart’s performance. It’s not bad, but it’s not memorable. The deer in the headlights routine worked just fine when surrounded by vampires, but it doesn’t really work in an environment where the character has contempt for most of those who surround her. The supposed seething tension between her and her stepmother never really comes through. You may ask who needs that in a comedy anyway (and you may be right), but if it’s written, you might as well try to make it work, no?

The Plot

I try to give away as little as possible but if you don’t want to know the plot, just skip the blue font.

Ivy League bound James Brennan (Jesse Eisnenberg) finds out that his father’s income has taken a turn south. Because of that, his graduation trip to Europe is canceled and his attending Columbia in the fall is in jeopardy as well. Lacking any sort of experience, and self-confidence, James get the only job that he seems qualified for – a carny at the local amusement park. There he meets Em and the two develop an relationship that takes more turns and ups and downs than the park’s rollercoaster. At the end of summer, James finds himself with less money than at the beginning and with no way to attend Columbia. He is seemingly fated to stay home and go to a local college, while Em returns to NYU.

James is made of sterner stuff and decides that if going to NY to attend an Ivy League school isn’t in the cards, at least he’ll get half-way there and just go to NY. He shows up in front of Em’s apartment. The two reconcile as the NY rain washes away whatever it was that temporarily tore them apart and NYC embraces them with the promises of a brand new future. I bet Greg Mottola is a big Saul Bellows fan.

Social Commentary

OK. So, why am I telling you not to go see this movie? Well, because about a third of the way through, the movie manages to introduce the worst kind of gratuitous blasphemy, and as a Christian I refuse to endorse any movie that does that.

It doesn’t stop there, however. The movie also introduces further Christian bashing, Catholic to be more precise. In a subplot that has nothing to do with the story line and adds nothing to it, Mottola portrays the local Chatolics as bigoted and segregationists against Jews. That’s another thing the movie doesn’t for one second allow us to not understand – that the protagonists, their families, and their friends are mostly jews except, of course, for the evil Catholics. It seems that every movie and movie director from the Cohen brtothers to a relative newcomer like Mottola must include the worst kind of blasphemy and Christian bashing in order to get the stamp of approval. Well fine, but I refuse to endorse it and I hope you do the same. If we all stop going to see these movies, they’ll get the picture.
So that’s it, event tough its a decent enough movie I would recommend that you don’t go to see it. On the other hand judging by the weekend’s box office numbers that would be redundant.

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