This new movie from director Greg Mottola is essentially the straight version of the much much better Edge of Seventeen. Released in 1998, Edge of Seventeen is a very tender gay coming of age story set against a summer job in an amusement park where the young lovers have a boss played by a comedian (Lea Delaria). If you like that kind of thing this is definitely the sort of thing you like, and a little bit down the road I was very happy when the debut director David Moreton set his sights on a book I represent, James Robert Baker's Testosterone, as the source material for his second film.
Two years before the release of Edge of Seventeen, Greg Mottola's first film The Daytrippers was released. It was a dull-ish but critically well received (overly well-received, one should say) film with decent actors schlepping to NYC in a station wagon. After a long time in the movie wilderness Mottola hit gold with the immensely pleasurable Superbad, a mainstream release from the Judd Apatow factory which was a little long-winded but benefited from a wonderful chemistry between Jonah Hill and Michael Cera in the lead roles. Now he parlays that success into a film that's the tepid spawn of Edge of Seventeen and The Daytrippers.
Amusement park, check. Romantic interest, check. Straight this time, check. Comedians playing bosses at park, check. Summer job, check. And then it takes the Daytrippers formula of putting interesting actors into the movie and making them very very dull. Jesse Eisenberg, who was delightful in Roger Dodger and The Squid and the Whale, plays the kid with the summer job. Kristen Stewart straight from Twilight plays his romantic interest. Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig, both from SNL and he also in Superbad, are the comedian bosses at the park. There are an abundance of character actors whom I believe have been more interesting in other things. There's a rich soundtrack of period songs from the 1987 period when the movie is set, but I guess the creators of this movie listened to different radio stations than I because I wasn't grooving.
It's not bad, but it's just dull and uninteresting. There's nothing new in the story. I didn't find a lot of chemistry in the leads. The insight into the ways of rigging amusement park midway games (the basketball hoop is oval, some of the hats are glued on, etc.) were as interesting to me as anything the characters are doing. In a Q&A afterward we were told that they decided to set the movie in Pittsburgh when they had to film the movie at a Pittsburgh amusement park instead of the Farmington, LI (NY) amusement park that the film was inspired by, but you really don't see any Pittsburgh at all so does it make any difference at all? I didn't fall asleep during it, but instead of being immersed in the movie I found myself pondering the layout of that 2 BR on 51st St. I've been looking at and whether or not there is some way to remodel a respectable kitchen into it instead of what it has now. I thought about the kitchen a lot.
Adventureland opens in NYC this week, I think, so I'll be curious to see what the critics say.
Interestingly enough, the Variety review of Daytrippers could almost be used to decribe this: "a spirited case elevates the basically sitcom material into something fluffier and funnier than its nature suggests ... a picture marred by uninventive direction but holds commercial appeal with the twentysomething and thirtysomething crowds." I don't think either movie is even as good as that lukewarm assessment, but if you'd say it about the one you could carbon copy for the other.
After several weeks with few new movies opening I've had any interest in seeing I do want to see Duplicity and I Love You Man, so maybe some more reviews soon.