Film (with rating): Adventureland (R)
Studio: Buena Vista Home Entertainment
Summary: When James Brennan (Jesse Eisenberg) has to cancel his summer vacation in order to make money for graduate school, his lack of on-the-job experience means he’s only qualified to run a game booth a the kitschy amusement park, Adventureland. But in the middle of his boredom, he meets some unique people like Em (Kristen Stewart), and suddenly, his boring summer becomes one of the best ever.
Review: From the packaging, “Adventureland” seems to be an amusement park-themed counterpart to the hilarious “Waiting,” also with Ryan Reynolds. But it’s not. “Adventureland” is actually a “Wonder Years” for the adult circuit, with some college-aged John Hughes flavor thrown in for good measure. It’s a coming-of-age comedy, a smart comedy that elicits laughs of recognition, not of hysteria.
I was drawn to the film because, like James, I too spent some time after college making money for grad school working at an amusement park. And while the work itself didn’t challenge my upper-level education, it did allow me to meet some amazing people. I viewed those summers spent working on the rides as some of the best I’ve had, thanks to my coworkers. Plus, this movie is set in the 1980s, and I’m a sucker for all things ’80s, especially the music, which is in ample supply here.
But even with my predisposition toward liking “Adventureland,” I was still surprised that I enjoyed it as much as I did. It was an intelligent, heartfelt, character-driven film. It didn’t smack me over the head with nostalgia, stereotypes or comedy; it let me find all that on my own. Director Greg Mottola (“Superbad”) far surpassed my expectations for this film (especially since I hated “Superbad,” and yes, I’m very aware I am one of the few who did). Eisenberg was brilliant and multifaceted as the geeky yet irresistible James, and Stewart had some good moments as Em. But it was Eisenberg’s show all the way. His ability to weave dorky honesty and witty confidence together was brilliant.
I actually not only liked the characters, but I believed them, too. They weren’t portrayed as “stupid youth,” nor did they speak and act like sassy Hollywoodized twentysomethings. Everything felt honest, not forced. It’s rare a comedy will master that trick, but this one did. In the shadow of John Hughes’ passing earlier this summer, “Adventureland” comes out on DVD at a great time. I for one loved this trip back into the ’80s, and my own days of asking “how many in your party?”
Extra highlight: “Just my Life: The Making of Adventureland”
What to serve for dinner: Theme-park food–corn dogs, roasted corn and funnel cake (cooks.com).
1 cup corn meal
1 cup flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 tablespoon oil
1/2 tablespoon powder curry
1 small can cream corn
1/2 cup corn starch
8 regular franks
1 slightly beaten egg
8 Popsicle sticks
Be sure franks are dampened a bit, but not wet. Mix all ingredients together, including egg, creamed corn, and oil. Add buttermilk a little at a time until it is at the right consistency (almost like a cake batter). Set aside for a few minutes allowing baking powder to rise. Place cornstarch in a flat dish. Push Popsicle sticks into franks and roll then in the corn starch, shake off extra, then coat with the batter. Heat enough oil in a pan to cook four dogs at a time. Cook to the degree of brownness you desire.
Remove outer husk. Turn back inner husks, remove silks. Replace inner husks. Place on grill. Turn often. Roast 12 to 15 minutes. Husks will brown, but corn will be delicious. Serve corn on cob with butter, salt, and pepper.
1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup milk
3 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon mace (optional)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
Combine all ingredients. Drop mixture through a large funnel into hot peanut or vegetable oil (365-375 degrees), swirling the mixture and frying until golden. Remove to paper towels using a slotted spoon. When cool, place in a clean paper bag and shake with confectioners’ sugar. Alternatively, drizzle with syrup or honey just before serving.
What to talk about over dinner: What was your job after college or during college? What was the lamest job you’ve ever had? The worst? Did you ever have a job that seemed really boring until you got to know your coworkers? What lessons did those summer jobs teach you? Have you ever met people like those in “Adventureland?” What do you think of the 1980s? What was your favorite song from back in the day? Have you ever dated anyone from work? Why or why not? If given the chance and the money, would you again work at a no-brainer job just so you could have some fun without all the office politics? Why or why not?