What a nice love letter to the ‘80s. It seems many movies that want to pick a decade to cover for a teen comedy, means they’re more worried about the soundtrack. A ‘60s movie will be filled with all the usual bands and peace signs everywhere. A ‘70s film has disco. The ‘80s movies want to use all the one-hit wonders from that era, and this soundtrack avoids that. Okay, okay…we do hear Wang Chung, and Falco’s Rock Me Amadeus, but it was for humorous purposes. I was pleasantly surprised to hear the Jesus & Mary Chain, Husker Du, New York Dolls, Nick Lowe, Bowie, Lou Reed, and a few Velvet Underground tunes.
Writer/director Greg Mottola had success with Superbad, and I like this approach much more for a comedy. There’s not a joke every second, or relying on the crassness of teens. It would’ve been so easy to just show a bunch of little kids puking on rides, teens puking while drinking, but instead…we see a more layered story and younger people that can actually have conversations about things other than sex and drugs. Now, that doesn’t mean those first two aren’t their biggest concerns, but…
For a movie that many critics will compare to John Hughes, here’s one reason Mottola’s picture can rank up there with the best of Hughes. He doesn’t try to give you a Duckie or quirky and unrealistic character. It’s one of the annoying things about the Juno character. She wasn’t realistic. All these characters were believable.
I suppose the amusement park owners are almost unbelievable in their actions and goofiness, but they’re so damn funny, I let that pass (Saturday Night Live’s Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig). I gave Bill Hader (along with Seth Rogen) the same pass in Superbad, because they were so hysterical as the cops.
Apparently Mottola wrote this based on his experiences working at a theme park. It’s set in 1987 in Pittsburgh. Jesse Eisenberg (who was so great in The Squid and the Whale) is all set for grad school, after he enjoys the summer backpacking through Europe. But hey – Ronald Regan is in office, people are losing jobs, and that includes his dad. Now he needs a summer job to make some money to pay for school. It’s not all bad, though. He meets Kristen Stewart at his crappy job. They seem to have a thing for each other, except that she’s dating the guy all the girls at the amusement park like – maintenance man Ryan Reynolds. He’s married, but hey…there are lots of cute girls working at the theme park and it’s not about to slow him down. And as a musician, he can also brag about the time he jammed with Lou Reed (who hasn’t met a musician that bragged about somebody they jammed with?).
When a movie does so many things right, I want to talk about each and every scene and praise it. Where I didn’t like the Michael Cera movie Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, in this, Cera lookalike Eisenberg hands Stewart a mixtape of his “favorite bummer songs.” It worked so much better than the other movie, which tried so hard to be hip.
Listening to Hader and Wiig was always amusing. In one scene, they’re trying to decide whether the hot dogs are bad because they sat out too long; another time they’re yelling about how nobody ever “wins the big ass Panda!”
Listening to a guy even nerdier than Eisenberg, who has some problems of his own (Martin Starr, in a great performance), will break your heart.
The trailers for this movie make it look like all those other teen comedies that aren’t usually funny. You can’t blame them for wanting to appeal to the masses. I was pleasantly surprised when more intelligent jokes were written. One of them has Eisenberg being introduced to the hottest girl at the theme park. She knew who he was already and he awkwardly says “My reputation proceeds me.”
She looks at him confused, obviously not knowing what that expression means. But don’t worry, you fans of the Adam Sandler comedies. They have a guy that’s fond of punching his friends in the crotch, so…there are jokes for everyone!
This movie has a lot of humor and heart, and it’ll make you nostalgic for the old days. Or at least the people like me, who graduated in 1987 – the year the film takes place.
My summer job was at McDonald’s. It lasted three summers, and we had similar scenarios to this movie. Don’t we all?
This gets 4 out of 5 stars.