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Adventureland Not Funny

Published April 3, 2009 in Movie Reviews
By Fred Topel | Image property of Miramax
Adventureland Poster Adventureland
I had really hoped we'd moved beyond the era of movies about boredom. Once people realized that mundane lives aren't actually entertaining, I thought they'd stopped making them.

Review: Adventureland

Adventureland gets off to a bad start with a protagonist who thinks his first time has to be special. Pft… This is some social nonsense we really need to unteach. Your first time is going to suck, period. You won't know what you're doing, you won't even know what feels good. It's just something to get past so you can start practicing right. Do it with someone you can count on to stick with you a while, but this idea that it should be some big romantic pinnacle is crap. Do you expect to marry and grow old with your first sexual partner too? Honestly, you should have had sex by the time you graduate college.

Plus there's this nervous ball of anxiety stammering his lines but not being Woody Allen. That's a problem. His parents are hesitant too and I'm antsy and out of breath just watching them. A hyper friend punches him in the balls for no reason, and if man gets hit in crotch isn't funny, something's very wrong.

So it's set in an amusement park where the workers just stand around, sneak liquor and pot, talk about pop culture (in this case a period '80s pop culture) and dance around intermingling relationships.

Slackers still have to be clever. Just complaining is not being funny. The movie is full of nonjokes where mundane understated people take themselves seriously, but saying the wrong thing is only funny if the wrong version means something. Just saying the opposite of what you meant isn't a joke and when someone mixes up moving on with passing on, that's just too obvious. It feels desperate, and saying the wrong word because you're drunk is even less of a joke.

A nerd goes ga ga over a hot girl's ass. It's descriptive, but again, not clever. He's so smart, I don't even get the reference, but I know it's not funny because it's just "I like her." That's not a joke.

I get the idea of being stuck in your own head. A lot of us are. Please, inspire us, don't revel in it, because if you revel in it, you better be Clerks because that level of wit is the only way to tolerate, let alone like these people.

The actual workings of the theme park are a minor aspect of the movie. The way games are fixed and the way customers try to scam prizes could be funny interludes, but they're not that funny. Annoying music repeating and sick kids vomiting are just actually annoying and gross, again not clever.

If it's supposed to be straight drama, it just middles. So people are unhappy and in bad relationships. That's not really a conflict worthy of art. That's just stuff that happens. There is a real issue of violent meatheads and anti-Semitism but hardly. That would be interesting, when small town boredom gets dangerous. It doesn't really explore it though.

As a comedy, it's pathetic. You're not laughing with these people. The most concerted effort at a joke is covering up a boner. That's at least something in a wannabe American Pie kind of way. There may be a few sight gags but the audience I saw Adventureland with laughed just at seeing old music videos and hearing old songs. A reference alone is not a joke. The Wedding Singer loved the '80s. Does Adventureland even like them?

I do get understated comedy, things like Flight of the Conchords, but their joke is that they're acting innocent about crazy things happening. They're not being hesitant losers. Part of their joke is that they're actually successful musicians, portraying their lack of success ironically.

Look, I know sometimes stuff doesn't work out. Make it happen. I don't feel sorry for you and I certainly don't find it amusing.
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Fred Topel
Sources: Image property of Miramax

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