If you want to know what's ailing Sundance, look no further than "Adventureland." It's directed by Greg Mottola, who made "Superbad" and the very fine "Daytrippers", so hopes were high at the premiere screening at the Eccles Theater last night. But if you programmed a computer with baseline parameters like "Sundance" "indie" "coming-of-age" "80s" "'hip' soundtrack" and "dream girl," it wouldn't just spit out something like "Adventureland" -- it would spit out "Adventureland."
Mottola wrote the script and based it on his experiences working at a crummy theme park during the summer after college. So he's writing what he knows, like the teachers say. Problem is, we know it too, and all too well. No faulting the actors -- Jesse Eisenberg as the lovelorn, overarticulate hero, Kristen Stewart as the willowy carny girl who steals his heart, Ryan Reynolds as the cool but treacherous older dude who mentors Eisenberg, Matt Bush as the "wacky" best friend, Martin Starr as the eccentric-but-wise co-worker, etc, etc. The songs are great if you came up during the 80s: lotsa Cure and the Replacements, although what the Velvet Underground's "Pale Blue Eyes" is doing on a biker-bar jukebox I have no idea. It's a slick, well-directed movie, and there's not one moment that you haven't seen 5,742 times before. Films like this are about the hero establishing an identity to carry him into adulthood; ironically, "Adventureland" makes the case that one young man's coming of age is exactly like another's. By the time the 'Mats sang "Unsatisfied" over the end credits, I was nodding my head in agreement.