Blu-ray
Recommended
3.5 stars
Overall Grade
3.5 stars

(click linked text below to jump to related section of the review)

The Movie Itself
4 Stars
HD Video Quality
3 Stars
HD Audio Quality
3.5 Stars
Supplements
3 Stars
High-Def Extras
2.5 Stars
Bottom Line
Recommended

Adventureland

Street Date:
August 25th, 2009
Reviewed by:
Review Date: 1
August 25th, 2009
Movie Release Year:
2009
Studio:
Disney/Buena Vista
Length:
107 Minutes
MPAA Rating:
Rated R
Release Country
United States

The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take

Despite the trailers packed with hilarity, and the announcement on the front of the box declaring "From the director of 'Superbad,'" 'Adventureland' is nothing like Greg Mottola's raunchy comedy. If you're picking this up hoping for another 'Superbad' you'll be surprised.

'Adventureland' is much more subdued than its crude predecessor. It's more a coming of age film than anything else. That isn't to say 'Adventureland' is bad, it's just a little misleading to sell it as the next 'Superbad,' when the movie really has its own humor and story and could have been marketed on its own merits and done just fine.

This period piece is set in 1987. What a strange time. People wore such strange clothes and listened to such strange music. The film captures the awkward transition the late 80s underwent as the 90s approached. Mottola sets the stage perfectly with set design and actors that look handpicked from the era. (Editor's Note - Aaron seems determined to make some of us feel very old.)

When awkward but well-meaning James Brennan (Jesse Eisenberg) learns his father is being demoted at work, along with a hefty cut in pay, he realizes his dreams of going to an ivy league school and participating in a graduation trip to Europe are no longer feasible, unless he can find a way to make his own money. So James gets a job at the local amusement park, where he is shown the secrets of the numerous game booths and learns why each is practically unwinnable. Oh, and if someone wins a "giant ass panda" while he's on duty he'll probably lose his job.

Soon James meets Em (Kristen Stewart) who he quickly falls for. She's a deeply troubled soul who appears put together on the outside, but is an utter mess on the inside. (It seems Kristen Stewart is continually playing the same character. She's rather good at portraying a tortured youngster as she did in 'Twilight' and 'Into the Wild,' but at this point she is risking typecasting.)

During James' employment he comes in contact with a number of other colorful characters as well. Connell (Ryan Reynolds) is the hunky handy man for the park who may or may not have a burgeoning musical career. Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig, as the over-zealous park owners, are responsible for a lot of the film's laughs.

'Adventureland' plays out more like a melodrama with funny bits inserted here and there. It's about the ways in which James changes and grows when forced to make choices that will affect his life. The film does venture into a few clichéd romantic movie moments. You have the break up and make up scenarios, but they're handled rather well here.

all told, 'Adventureland' offers viewers a unique look at the hazards of love. Interestingly, they don't seem to change all that much, no matter the time period. The film is heartfelt, and it aims to tell a story that's more about inner feelings than it is about comedy.

The Video: Sizing Up the Picture

'Adventureland's AVC-encoded transfer is sadly plagued with a few problems. While the transfer does a good job with the grain, making it feel like 1987, it has unnecessary technical problems. White dots and blips appear almost constantly throughout the film. Theses white spots, apparently noise from the original print, hamper the look of the film. They are problems you'd expect to see on an old catalogue release, but not on a new one.

Technical problems aside, this transfer does well with fine detail and delineation. Colors appear a bit washed out, but I'm not convinced that's a problem with the transfer. Rather, the muted colors add to the feeling of watching a film based in the 80s. Besides the print specks, other technical problems are nonexistent. This is a fine transfer, but a bit less than what it could have been.

The Audio: Rating the Sound

The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack excels in creating an ambient atmosphere, except when it comes to the movie's softly spoken dialogue.

Most of the dialogue seems too quiet, and you may find yourself having to turn up your system to hear what the characters are saying. However, the treatment of ambient noise is generous. The rear speakers make the amusement park come to life with the sounds of bells, whistles, and roller coasters going on around you. The subwoofer is silent for most of the movie, only really kicking in during some of the classic 80s songs that are featured throughout. This Master Audio track is underwhelming, especially when it fails to deliver the voices well. Since this is a very talkative picture it's hard to believe that's where the soundtrack falters.

The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff

Accompanying the feature is a fairly healthy assortment of supplements. The Blu-ray contains all the material on the DVD release, plus a few Blu-ray exclusives. There's also a digital copy provided.

  • Audio Commentary - This is one of the best commentaries I've heard on a film in a long time. Writer/Director Greg Mottola and actor Jesse Eisenberg crack sarcastic jokes almost the entire time. They're funny, and have great chemistry together. The only thing that could have made this commentary better would be if Bill Hader had joined them, but we can't have everything. As is, I loved this commentary. If you don't usually listen to audio commentaries you may want to start with this one.
  • Just My Life (SD, 17 min) - This is the standard behind-the-scenes featurette, but it does contain some interesting material about the movie. Mottola divulges how some of his real-life experiences were put into the film.
  • Deleted Scenes (HD, 2 min) - Three deleted scenes all in two minutes or so. You can tell why they were cut, and there's really nothing to be learned here. You can also play them with optional commentary from Eisenberg and Mottola, but it's just not enough to keep interest level up.
  • Picture Music Selection - This is a pretty cool feature that has predefined scenes that you can go to in order to hear the classic 80s songs that pepper the soundtrack.

HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?

  • Welcome to Adventureland (SD, 5 min) - This is what supplements are all about. Seriously! Four very funny commercials about Adventureland. All presented to look like VHS-quality.
  • Frigo's Ball Taps (HD, 2 min) - During the film James has a friend named Frigo who is constantly punching him in the balls. Here you can learn the art of the ball tap. It's kind of stupid, but as we've learned over the years from 'America's Funniest Home Videos,' someone getting hit in the groin is inherently funny no matter what.
  • Lisa P's Guide to Style (HD, 2 min) - Adventuerland's resident hottie Lisa P. offers her 80s fashion tips. Pretty bland, not really worth watching unless you like looking at actress Margarita Levieva.

Easter Eggs

Highlight "play" on the main menu, and then hit the left directional arrow. A red ring will appear around the "A" in 'Adventureland.' Press enter to select it, and a screen will come up telling you that you've won a "Big Ass Panda."

Highlight the "bonus features" on the main menu and then hit the left directional arrow. A picture of a panda will appear above the menu of bonus features. Press enter to select it, and a short scene will come up with Kristen Stwart attempting to enter the club Razzmatazz.

A big thanks goes to High-Def Digest reader Ron for finding these Easter Eggs.

Final Thoughts

I thoroughly enjoyed 'Adventureland' even though I went into it expecting an 80s version of 'Superbad.' Instead, 'Adventureland' provided much more than just laughs. It depicts the thought-provoking journey of a young man who just wants to do what's right. He's a genuinely nice guy who doesn't want to take advantage of anyone. It's nice to see a conventional story presented in an unconventional way. 'Adventureland' does walk the cliché line that many romantic comedies have crossed in the past, but Mottola guides the film along with care, resulting in a cinematic experience that's funny but also touching.

All disc reviews at High-Def DVD Digest are completed using the best consumer HD home theater products currently on the market. More about our gear.

Technical Specs

  • Blu-ray
  • BD-50
  • Region A

Video Resolution/Codec

  • 1080p/AVC MPEG 4

Aspect Ratio(s)

  • 1.85:1

Audio Formats

  • English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
  • French: Dolby Digital 5.1
  • Portuguese: Dolby Digital 5.1
  • Thai: Dolby Digital 2.0

Subtitles/Captions

  • English SDH
  • French
  • Spanish
  • Portuguese
  • Bahasa
  • Malay
  • Korean
  • Japanese
  • Thai

Supplements

  • Audio Commentary
  • Featurettes
  • Digital Copy

All disc reviews at High-Def Digest are completed using the best consumer HD home theater products currently on the market. More about our gear.

Puzzled by the technical jargon in our reviews, or wondering how we assess and rate HD DVD and Blu-ray discs? Learn about our review methodology.