Two films featuring theme parks, ending in ‘land’ and starring Jesse Eisenberg. But which is better? Adventureland or Zombieland?
A film by Greg Mottola, the director of Superbad did not fill me with a lot of hope.
It wasn’t helped that the premise involved James (Eisenberg) going through a “really tough time”. Apparently a really tough time for writer/director Mottola is when your father gets a demotion, meaning you can’t afford a summer trip to Europe and have to get a summer job instead.
Given the summer job in question is in a theme park, I did start to muster a certain amount of sympathy for his plight. As a side note, fun fairs are among my most loathed places in the universe. The combination of shoddy rides, fixed games, and loud terrible music making my skin crawl.
Anyway, despite having similar feelings about theme parks to myself, James soon begins to enjoy his summer job. Due in no small part to Emily (Kristen Stewart) who he quickly forms a connection with. However, she seems less keen to commit than he does.
The movie’s based in the eighties, although it’s difficult to tell. Fun fairs have always had a kind of grimy, retro feel to them anyway. Fashion-wise, most of the characters are wearing their uniforms, so that aspect also fails to connect.
Despite this the central relationship between James and Emily is well played out. It strikes a nice balance between believability and drama, as their relationship naturally evolves from friendship to dating and beyond.
The ensemble cast are all excellent. Each actor bringing enough depth to make their role significant. My only complaint would be that each of the roles seems to be written around the main characters, rather than existing on their own terms. It felt like side characters were doing or saying things just so the plot could be advanced in an oh-so-convenient way.
Perhaps I’m being a little harsh on the movie. Ultimately, the main problem was that Adventureland failed to charm me in way similar films like Juno, Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist or Little Miss Sunshine did.
If you’ve ever worked a crummy summer job with likeminded colleagues, then you may enjoy the movie more. However, I felt like this film was treading over old ground, rather than telling a new and creative story.
If you prefer your comedies with a bit more bite, look no further than Zombieland.
This time Eisenberg is one of the few survivors of a Zombie Apocalypse. His survival is based around his strict “rules”. Things like “Beware of Bathrooms” and “Seatbelts”. For Eisenberg there’s no contest between fight and flight.
On his road to survival, he meets Woody Harrelson, definitely more of a fight kinda guy. As well as sisters played by Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin.
The latter two are determined to get to Pacific Playland. Since apparently, it’s one of the few places in the post-apocalyptic Zombieland free of the flesh-eating monsters.
The film moves along at a breakneck speed, rarely pausing for a breath. It has plenty of creative touches along the way that make the journey a lot of fun. The film references its rules with graphical overlays at various points, and includes a nice feature known as “Zombie Kill of the Week”.
There’s just enough back story to the characters to make us care about their plight, and the tone of the movie strikes a nice balance between humour and darkness.
Overall, Zombieland is a fun, entertaining film without doing too much to challenge the viewer. It gets by with some great performances from its leads, and a pretty fresh approach to a a well worn premise.