Adventureland: So Dull!


Far be it from me to hate on a movie filmed not just in Pittsburgh, but mostly in ever-beloved Pgh theme park Kennywood (that’s the Steel Phantom, above, which is now I think called something else, which for a time had either the longest drop or the most vertical drop or the fastest maximum speed of any other roller coaster in the country: and it’s not even the best one at Kennywood), but I couldn’t hold onto anything in Greg Mottola’s latest other than the set.

I think the movie’s going for its physical setting in selling itself as something new or interesting. That or its temporal one: the movie takes place in 1987 and but all the characters in the movie fawn over Lou Reed and Bowie so you’ve got the cooler part of the Seventies lurking throughout, and so the movie hinges everything style-wise on what are easily the two chief retro-hip decades of the moment.

But otherwise: a young man is still a virgin after graduating college and has all these perfect plans to go to Europe for the summer and then off to Columbia graduate school (this four-years-later positioning of the classic coming-of-age/losin’-it narrative may be the one other thing Adventureland deploys in trying to stand out, but as N said it’s really just an excuse to set scenes in bars without having to worry about the legality of any of it…in no way are these characters any more mature or interesting that high school seniors), but then those plans go awry. And so he gets a soul-crushing summer job saved only by an edgy and beautiful woman.

Will he get with the girl and then will this getting-with somehow get damaged? Will they get back together? Will he lose his virginity before the movie’s end? Will there be an unattractive but funny friend? Will there be a much-more-attractive-than-the-male-lead adversary? Will parents be pretty much absent from the film despite living in the same homes as these characters, and despite owning the cars they drive? Will, when they actually get screentime, these parents get depicted as bumbling idiots with selfish motives and terrible ideas about everything? Will, somehow, music be a kind of saving grace?

And will Yo La Tengo do the soundtrack?

I don’t know how these movies keep getting made. Do straight people get infinitely more junk out of them than I do? And it’s such a depressing step down for Mottola, whose debut, “Daytrippers”, is one of the smartest and funniest comedies of the Nineties. And so interesting!: a woman (Hope Davis) spends most of the day in the car with her parents (Anne Meara and some other man), her sister (Parker Posey), and her sister’s pretentious boyfriend (Liev Schreiber) as she tries to search for her husband to catch him maybe cheating on her. That’s the movie. Who knows what’ll happen?

Everyone knows everything about Adventureland already, except maybe that it doesn’t seem like Mottola, et al., changed a single thing about Kennywood other than its name. Oh, and that its female lead looks precisely like my friend Julee:


5 thoughts on “Adventureland: So Dull!”

  1. This shout out is so much cooler than my niece saying, “You look just like Bella!”

    (twlight reference, same actress)

    We liked the movie, but mostly for how seamlessly the 70s fit into the present day. The look of the film could have conveyed either if you don’t count the technology.

  2. You’re holding Adventureland up to the wrong standard. It’s supposed to work and move like a memory, sort of like how Dazed and Confused did. The whole virgin aspect, I think, is a homage to the films from the period in which it’s set, and not very much more than that. It’s about the feel. And Adventureland gets the feel exactly right.

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