After three months of mildly entertaining but mostly below average releases, film fans finally have something to be excited about with the new release “Adventureland.”
Written and directed by Greg Mottola, the film is a pleasant surprise - smart, funny and tender. It’s the first release in 2009 that has any potential to be remembered come December.
Jesse Eisenberg stars as James, a recent college graduate who is about to embark on a summer trip to Europe before heading to Columbia for grad school.
His plans are altered when he learns his father has taken a pay cut and can’t afford James’ vacation and education.
James is forced to get a job working at a local amusement park, where he meets an eclectic mix of characters. Before long James becomes involved with Emily (Kristen Stewart), a girl dealing with her own issues, including an affair with the married park handyman and aspiring musician Mike (Ryan Reynolds).
The ads for “Adventureland” play up Mottola’s previous film “Superbad” - suggesting another raunchy teenage comedy - but this film is much more. Sure, there are some funny moments, plenty coming from “Saturday Night Live” alums Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig as the park’s owners, but the film makes the most of its 1987 setting, creating a nostalgic feel on par with films like “Dazed and Confused” and “Almost Famous.”
Hader and Wiig are just a small part of a large cast that all give some memorable work. There are some small touches like Matt Bush (as a guy who constantly torments James) and Margarita Levieva (as the girl object of everyone’s desire who is interested in James) that I really appreciated, but for the most part “Adventureland” works thanks to Eisenberg and Stewart.
Their relationship is tender and quite believable, with an authenticity that sent me back to my high school days in the late ’80s.
People my age should be able to identify with “Adventureland,” but I think this is a film that younger audiences can also relate to.
“Adventureland” got off to a rather tepid start at the box office last weekend, grossing $5.72 million and finishing sixth. Here’s hoping the film can find the audience it deserves, because it is easily the best release to date in 2009.
DVD dandy of the week
This week’s dandy is “Bedtime Stories” (B-), the mildly entertaining Adam Sandler Disney film that was a huge hit last December.
Sandler plays Skeeter Bronson, a hotel handyman who dreams of becoming the hotel manager.
His dreams start to become a reality when Skeeter agrees to watch his sister’s two children and is surprised to discover that the bedtime stories he tells them become true in real life.
Skeeter decides to use his newly discovered gift to lock up the promotion, but soon realizes the kids have more control over making the stories a reality than he does.
“Bedtime Stories” is nothing more than Sandler channeling his inner-Disney, but the film succeeds - there’s just enough humor to please all ages.
Adults will appreciate the supporting cast, which includes Keri Russell, Guy Pearce, Courtney Cox and Russell Brand.
Children will love the lavish, fairy tale-like stories and the visual gags - including a bug-eyed pet guinea pig named Bugsy.
Sure, there were better family-oriented fare in 2008, but this is one of those harmless entries that is sure to find a second life on home video.
“Bedtime Stories” is rated PG for some mild crude humor and mild language and is now available on DVD.
— Sportswriter/movie reviewer Micheal Compton, whose own bedtime stories are too frightening to mention in a family newspaper, can be reached by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.