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Adventureland (2009) Print E-mail
Wednesday, 26 August 2009
ImageTeenage comedy films have been a staple of the film industry for the past few decades.  Ever since "American Pie," they have become raunchier and raunchier.  "Adventureland" is not a film that I would call raunchy, but it seems to want to go that route.  Luckily, it did not sink that low.  "Adventureland" was not a big hit at box offices, not by a long shot.  Still, the film has potential that is unfortunately left untapped.

The film takes place in the 1980s.  However, it is not a very good period piece.  I spent much of the film debating what year it actually was.  The clothes and appearances look to be the 80s, however the language and some of the interior shots, particularly Em's house don't look or sound anything like the 1980s.  Em (Kristen Stewart) is no really a child of the 80s, she acts more like a moody child of the 90s.

The film's lead character is James (Jesse Eisenberg).  He just graduated from college and plans on spending the summer traveling in Europe with his college friend.  Then in the fall they both plan to attend Columbia for post-grad school.  Unfortunately, on the day of his graduation his parents inform him that his father got "demoted" and that they can no longer afford to send him to Europe or pay for his post-grad schooling.  James has no choice but to go home for the summer and try to make some money at a summer job.

After being rejected by every place imaginable, even a fast food restaurant, he has no choice but to resort to working at a theme park.  Adventureland is split into the "games" workers and the "rides" workers.  James is stuck in the games, while all the popular people are in the rides department.  James befriends Joel (Martin Starr) an awkward teen/twenty-something who looks like he is deep into the science fiction genre, particularly Star Trek.

It doesn't take long before James meets Em and falls deeply for her.  It is recognizable from the start that Em is not the type of girl that wants a serious relationship.  James on the other hand is a virgin that longs to find his true soulmate.  Em and James finally connect, but she drives a wedge in between them, "forcing" James into the arms of Lisa P (Margarita Levieva).  Meanwhile, Em is sneaking around with a married man.

The story is really predictable and that is what holds it back from being a better film.  The predictability is mainly due to the writing, not so much the acting.  It isn't a shock when the news about Em and the married man (Ryan Reynolds) spreads through the park.  Embarrassed, Em flees to New York, where she attends school.  James is now left alone, as his friend comes back from Europe with a new dream, making New York an impossibility for James. The film ends on a cliché-ish note, but it is satisfactory.  I'm not sure what could be done to this film to make it better.  It is one of those films that is what it is.

"Adventureland" comes to Blu-ray with an MPEG-4 AVC transfer and a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  The video quality is tough to judge given this is a period piece with specific filmmaker intentions.  That being said, the video quality is not going to stun by any means.  The film is plagued by film grain and some print noise.  Black levels are decent, but there is some crushing in the nighttime sequences.  The contrast is a bit too hot.  The colors are intentionally washed out.  Details and textures tend to get lost among the source noise and grain.  Fleshtones are pale but accurate.  Edges are sharp.  There is not artifiacting, banding, edge enhancement or digital noise reduction.  Overall the image is suitable and a great upgrade from the standard DVD.  Don't expect to be dazzled by this transfer, but there is generally not much technically wrong with it.

The audio is presented in DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio.  The track is fairly bland, never reaching any extremities.  The dynamic range is consistent throughout.  The rear channels feel empty, even during the ride and game sequences.  The dialogue is intelligible, standing out from the rest of the audio track.  There is no immersive feeling as the surrounds are quite low in volume when there is anything present in them.  The LFE channel is virtually absent.  In fact I can hardly remember a time in which the LFE was noticeable.  The 80s pop music is nice to hear, but it lacks power and re-mastered clarity.  The track as a whole is very underwhelming.  However, once again it is hard to fault the transfers for some of this stuff.  The original sound design was not spectacular in the least.  Nevertheless, the dialogue remains the important part in watching this film and it is always clear.

The bonus materials on this Blu-ray comprise mainly of short snippets.  First, there is an audio commentary with the writer/director Greg Mottola and the lead actor Jesse Eisenberg.  This commentary is very lightweight.  It contains recollections and production information.  There is a fair amount of humor in this commentary as well.  I was disappointed that Bill Hader did not get included in this commentary.  He was by far the best comical relief in this film.  "Just My Life" is a typical making-of featurette.  Exclusive to the Blu-ray edition is "Frigo's Taps" a look at creating the painful hits in the nuts.  Also exclusive to the Blu-ray is "Lisa P's Guide to Style."  The last Blu-ray exclusive is "Welcome to Adeventureland."  This featurette is video montage introducing you to the theme park.  There are some deleted scenes and a picture music selection.  This last segment allows you to jump to specific scenes of the film.  Lastly, there is a second disc in the package containing a Digital Copy of the film.

"Adventureland" is not a perfect film.  It is simply about teenage angst, but involves college kids instead of teenagers.  The video and audio quality are not spectacular by any means, but they are adequate for high definition.  I would have to recommend this disc as overall it is different from the plethora of bland films being released on Blu-ray.

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