Adventureland (Blu-ray)

January 28, 2012 7 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

I have to admit that I had somewhat mixed thoughts when putting in “Adventureland” in my Blu-ray player. I seem to be getting to the point in my life where the “teen” movies, be them comedies or dramas, just aren’t for me anymore. Why, you ask? Well as a man in his mid-30’s, it’s increasingly more and more difficult to really try and relate to the high school and/or college crowd. And, as luck would have it, that’s just what “Adventureland” is about. Now I try to go into each new movie with an open mind, as any critic would when reviewing, well, anything. Admittedly Kristen Stewart’s name did catch my eye and it would seem that she’s one of the new “It” girls after her success in the “Twilight” films. Ok, that’s fine. I’m sure the filmmakers want whoever will sell the most tickets and her name certainly can’t hurt. But “Adventureland” is a bit more than just a name and a pretty face, it does tell quite the story…

The story focuses around James (Jesse Eisenberg). He’s a recent college graduate with zero work experience and he thinks he’s off to Eurpoe with his best friend before going to graduate school in the fall. Unfortunately, his father (Jack Gilpin) has had some troubles at work and his parents don’t have the cash to send him abroad for the summer. Reluctantly, James searches for employment and finds it at a local amusement called, you guessed it, Adventureland. It’s here that James meets some friends and all they seem interested in doing is getting high while operating the rides. James also forms a bond with Em (Kristen Stewart) who, unbeknownst to him is having an affair with the Mike (Ryan Reynolds); the mechanic for the amusement park. Mike becomes a surrogate for James, giving him encouragement in his pursuit of Em though he also has aspirations towards the exotic Lisa P. (Margarita Levieva). Can one summer really shape James’ life and what will become of his relationship troubles?

“Adventureland” isn’t a bad movie, not by a long shot. I don’t think it’s the kind of film I’ll pop in once a month, but it is somewhat of a coming of age film. For whatever reason, the movie is set in 1987 which was a nice change of pace. I’ve seen so many films with ipods and cell phones, it’s nice to see a movie where a phone actually rings. The performances are, by and large, strong and there’s some added star power with Wendie Malick, Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig. I suppose my biggest complaint with the film is the casting of Jesse Eisenberg. No offense to the actor, he did a fine job in his role but it looks like his part was tailor-made for Michael Cena (of “Superbad” and “Arrested Development” fame). The dialogue, mannerisms and even the dress was nearly identical to the somewhat nerdy, out of place character that Cena plays. at any rate, “Adventureland” is certainly worth a watch, but I’ll go out on a limb and say that the target audience is limited.

Video: How does it look?

“Adventureland” comes to Blu-ray in a less than stellar 1.85:1 AVC HD transfer. I realize the filmmakers tried to make this movie look a bit dated and they do that generally fairly well. But the transfer seems just a bit too grainy for my taste and I’m not sure if they went overboard with some digital effects or the picture quality simply isn’t up to par with Disney’s current HD releases. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not terrible but there are a few blemishes from time to time and even a bit of artifacting in some of the darker scenes. That said, detail is strong and crisp during the majority of the film as we’ve come to expect from a Blu-ray film.

Audio: How does it sound?

The DTS HD Master Audio track is sort of wasted here in that it really doesn’t have too many opportunities to shine. Yes, we do get some added ambiance during the scenes at the park, but not much more aside from that. Also, maybe it was just me, but the dialogue seemed to be bumped down a notch or two. It wasn’t quite to the point where I had to turn it up, but Jesse Eisenberg is somewhat of a low talker and it did diminish from the overall auditory experience for me. Still, like the video it’s not horrible, just not something that left a good impression.

Supplements: What are the extras?

Now the supplements are a different story as the commentary track is pretty funny. Director Greg Motolla (who also directed “Superbad”, I neglected to add above) and Jesse Eisenberg seem to have a great time adding their backhanded remarks to the film and it makes for a pretty interesting track. I dare say I enjoyed it more than the movie itself! We follow that up with a somewhat bland featurette about how some details from Motolla’s life were put into the film. Yeah, welcome to fimmaking 101 Greg. A trio of deleted scenes are also shown and a rather unique feature in which you can skip to the part of the movie where some classic 80’s songs are played. Onto the Blu-ray exclusives and we start off with some “retro” commercials for Adventureland. Don’t adjust your set, folks – they’re supposed to look like crap. Frigo, the character in the film who was famous for hitting his male companions in their “parts” continues his character off camera. Isn’t this the guy from those AT&T “minutes” commercials? Lastly, Lisa P. gives us some fashion tips in her trendy 80’s attire.

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