It may sound like a Disneyland or Disney World section, but Adventureland is hardly a children’s tale, as home viewers will find out today as the film releases on Blu-ray Disc. In fact, all it takes is one glance at the cover to see that the film comes from the creative minds behind Superbad, and you’ll know right off the bat that Adventureland is more adult-oriented than it is for kids. That said, the film manages to bring out the inner high schooler in all of us, for better or for worse, and adults who have teens may actually find commonalities in the film that they can jointly laugh at and discuss once the end credits roll.
Adventureland follows the story of James, a high school graduate whose dreams of studying journalism at Columbia come to a screeching halt when his dad’s job changes and he’s forced to work at a second-rate amusement park called Adventureland. Along the way James meets Em, a mysterious (and mysteriously sad) girl who works at the carnival-game kiosk next to him, and Connell, a complicated park maintenance man who is also interested in Em.
On the whole, I don’t know what’s funnier: the film’s script and subsequent performance of its cast, or the movie’s commentary on American life, commercialism and teenage angst. I suppose it all depends on your state of mind at the time, or maybe your level of sobriety, but no matter which way you slice it, there are funny moments for all. There are also some seriously depressing moments, such as Em’s interactions with Connell, and although Adventureland focuses on the awkward relationships of what amount to high schoolers, their complexities deliver a film that’s not nearly as hilarious as other recent releases of its ilk such as Superbad. In fact, some people are bound to find the film more depressing than funny. Such is the bane of a high schooler’s existence.
As a Blu-ray Disc, Adventureland is also a bit of a mixed bag. The AVC-encoded 1080p video shows great contrast and saturation, and it really represents the color spectrum well. Some of this is because the film takes place in the oh-so-colorful decade of the 1980s, but it’s nice to see that the 1080p presentation actually represents the source material and transfers so well. There’s also a nary a sign of grain, although a few nighttime scenes at the end of the film (archival video of New York City?) show what can only be described as “fuzz.”
Likewise, the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio The Energy RC-Micro home theater system delivered the sound for this review.makes incredible use of the surrounds, and there are certain scenes in Adventureland (the amusement park) where viewers will feel like they’re sitting behind the camera. The balance leaves a bit to be desired, though, as here’s a constant need to adjust the volume levels between dialogue-intense scenes and those that are focused more on the soundtrack. The soundtrack’s necessarily great (hello, ’80s music!), but it still gets annoying to fiddle with the remote throughout the movie rather than just enjoy a nice balanced audio track.
The bonus features are led off by Just My Life: The making of Adventureland, a 17-minute feature that explores just what its title suggests, a feature-length commentary that isn’t nearly as funny as one would hope and three deleted scenes totaling just under three minutes total. Things start to heat-up somewhat, though, when it comes to the three Blu-ray exclusive bonus features: Frigo’s Taps, Lisa P’s Guide to Style and Welcome to Adventureland.
In the first BD-exclusive feature, Frigo’s Taps (3 minutes), Matt Bush demonstrates some of his nad-numbing techniques to surprise unwitting “friends” with a tap on the testes. In Lisa P’s Guide to Style (2 minutes), we get a crash-course in ’80s fashion courtesy of the ‘femme fatale’ of the film, and in Welcome to Adventureland (5:04), viewers are treated to four faux commercials for the amusement park every employee loves to hate. Frigo’s Taps and Welcome to Adventureland are the funniest of the two, the former because it gives “code names” to the various types of nut shots (and then proceeds to show each on in action, and the latter because it just exudes personality. Unfortunately, the commercials are ridiculously low in resolution, which fits with the film’s nature but disappoints a bit when you consider that you’re watching them on a 1080p HDTV.
On the whole, though, Adventureland doesn’t disappoint, just as long as you know what you’re in for. The film’s Blu-ray packaging includes numerous quotes about how funny it is, but be forewarned that it’s also got some depressing (yet predictable) elements. The high-definition presentation also has great promise, but there are certainly aspects where you have to remind yourself “hey, this isn’t a big-budget Titanic here.” Keep these things in mind, and Adventureland is worth a rent.
- Score: 8.3
— Jonas Allen