One of the many ways in which my life is awesome is my flexible day-to-day schedule. For example, on Tuesday we decided to whip up a gourmet meal after we got back from the gym. Having sworn off during the week drinking, it was unfortunate that we had four bottles of Menage sitting around. Did I mention flexibility? Really, if you are off seven days a week, why would you arbitrarily decide that the weekend should be Saturday and Sunday? Couldn’t Tuesday also be a weekend night, if we decided that was our preferred structure? Certainly.
So, to make a long story short, I woke up at 12:30 on Wednesday. I wrote something for this award-winning website and then decided to go to the movies. At 4:30 PM. On a Wednesday. Think about that for a moment. I basically live like a 15 year old would, if they could.
Synopsis – 1987ish. Coming of age story, with a couple of twists. Virgin protagonist James has no sense of urgency to do the deed. Although a nerdy idealist, girls dig him from the get-go, not after a montage where he trys on a bunch of new clothes and funny sunglasses as his sidekick laughs. Not a high school movie, set in the summer before grad school starts. Due to his parent’s financial crisis, James is forced to suffer the indignity of working as a carnie at the lame local theme park Adventureland rather than backpack through Europe stoned. Adventureland is, however, packed with potential love interests (and competition for said love interests). Will he get the cool brainy chick or the hot stupid one? Or none at all?
Key characters – James Brennan, thoughtful virgin working to fund Columbia journalism school (probably not a great use of your cash, bud) played by Jesse Eisenberg (The Squid and The Whale, Roger Dodger). By the way, Campbell Scott from Roger Dodger and Singles was next to me on a treadmill at NYSC last month – he’s appears to be about 75 years old, completely gray (not that gray hair isn’t rad). Em (Kristen Stewart), James’ semi love interest, is a thinking man’s hot carnie, who likes cool bands but hates her new stepmom. Joel (Martin Starr), James’ pipe-smoking, Russian literature loving carnie colleague who somewhat bitterly accepts that he’s unlikely to ever get the girl or the dough. Ryan Reynolds plays Connell, the older, cooler maintenance man dubiously rumored to have jammed with Lou Reed and the object of many of the ladies’ affection.
My Opinion – This is a nice little movie; I’m not sure about the way they’ve marketed it, however, as it’s not in the same vein as Superbad. It’s not a broad comedy at all (despite certain players’ involvement), it’s more a light drama (think Garden State). If you sneak a bottle of Goldschlager into the theater hoping for another Old School, you’ll be hugely disappointed. The cliched boy-becomes-a-man journey has been done several thousand times before, but here they believably focus on establishing sincere emotional relationships (with both friends and love interests) rather than just zany carnal accomplishments. While the carnie gang seems a bit too intellectual at times, it’s actually a nice break from the typical polarized movie youths who are either complete idiots or total geniuses – this crew is smart but wholly capable of making poor decisions.
While I might be accused of having a soft spot for movies set in my formative years, the only thing that really gives it away here is the music (which is awesome). Also, by the later 80’s not all cars were Pacers or Pintos. These kids drank a lot more than I did during the 80’s. I guess I was a loser then and need to make up for lost time.
Score: 4.5 Stars (Would I watch this again on cable? Probably, yes.)
1. The story – Refreshing effort from Greg Mottola, who both wrote and directed. While the final destination is familiar Mottola took a different route to get there (sensitive but without overlong navel-gazing sequences).
2. Spot-on casting of the main characters – The core trio of James, Em and Joel were believable and exhibited great chemistry. Kristen Stewart, though…I’m mean, she’s attractive and all, but, um….she has dead eyes and appears to be a bit of a mouth breather…maybe that’s just her acting style…Martin Starr was awesome.
3. One of the characters routinely punched James in the nads, leading to him writhing in pain. That’s always quality entertainment.
1. Horrific casting of the amusement park owners – Is there a rule that Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig have to be in every movie made? Seriously, I like them both just fine (and in fact I think Kristen Wiig is most excellent and pretty hot for a comic actress) but are they going to play the supporting characters in every film made from here on out? Are there no other actors who need work? They didn’t really fit here, I would’ve preferred to see an older couple cast. I understand director loyalty, etc, but come on. And, hey, Seth Rogen – the same goes for you, just moreso…
2. Ryan Reynolds – He did his best work in Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place. He’ll always be Berg to me. And now he’s going to be in X-Men Origins: Wolverine even though he’s already played a character from the Marvel universe in Blade. Won’t this cause a massive ripple through the time-space continuum? Let’s just cool it with the Ryan Reynolds casting until the Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place movie.
3. Jesse Eisenberg – He’s an excellent actor, and great in this film. But I wish he would have followed the path of being a professional football player so Chris Berman could say “Shaun Hill for 15 yards to Jesse “Uncertainty Principle” Eisenberg!”.