A notice to Generation Y: the 1980s were not cool. High school was not like John Hughes movies (except that the seemingly-cool chick usually really did end up with the jock or the rich kid in the end). Nobody wore their legwarmers and teased hair ironically– they were just kind of naive and dumb that way. And the only reason you think that the music was cool is because you listen to things that were never on the radio, anyway, unless maybe you lived in London or New York — it was all Phil Collins and Tom Cochrane and Milli Vanilli. And there was no internet, so even if you somehow heard about The Smiths or The Stone Roses on late-night CBC Radio, you had to go to a record store and special-order a record that *might* show up six weeks later. And don’t get me started on the TV.
Director Greg (Superbad) Mottola’s Adventureland, set in 1987, manages to nod to 80s nostalgia without wallowing in it, or making the era seem cooler than it was. Jesse Eisenberg is a kind of Jewish Michael Cera-type, a Renaissance studies grad who is unexpectedly forced to take a summer job at the titular amusement park. He finds a friend’s bag of joints is a ticket into the inner circles of carny society, including bitter nerd Martin Starr and sharp-tongued Kirsten Stewart, who is carrying on a self-loathing affair with married handyman Ryan Reynolds.
Adventureland is funny, but not uproariously so, and it’s not trying to be. It’s more Dazed and Confused than Superbad 2. Unfortunately, it also feels pretty slight, which makes it’s awkward (and I suspect unintended) tonal shifts all the more jarring. A subplot about Eisenberg’s dad’s alcoholism ends up going nowhere, and does so thuddingly. And Bill Hayder and Kristen Wiig appear as the park’s owners, doing such broad comedy that they seem to be living in a separate universe (it’s like an SNL sketch dropped into American Graffitti). But that said, I was really charmed with the movie. Sure the music sucked at the time, but even for a nostalgia-hater like myself, the pre-ironic 80s is a nice place to spend an hour and a half occassionally.