The first poster for Adventureland gives "from the director of Superbad" the lowest, smallest billing. The most recent poster puts it first and foremost, even making it more colorful than the title and, one could argue, the cast itself.
In the weeks leading up to its release this Friday, the marketing campaign for Adventureland has been slowly, steadily, understandably tweaking itself to play up director Greg Mottola's last hit teen comedy, Superbad, but ever since seeing the film, I've been convinced that those expecting something so raucous this weekend will soon find themselves shifting in their seats as they watch something that's a bit more concerned about the 'age' in 'coming-of-age' than the 'coming.' It's not a tremendously misleading sell, but rather a matter of tone, and as such, here's seven reasons why you should look forward to the film beyond thinking it's the Next Big Quotable Comedy.
1. Think less Apatow, more Crowe and Linklater -- I'm not saying that Adventureland quite ranks with the likes of Fast Times at Ridgemont High or Dazed and Confused, but it has that slack feel of a summer that gradually changed everything. In fact, take out the handful of appearances by Kristen Wiig and Bill "Superbad" Hader (or don't, because they're pretty funny), and I'd feel perfectly comfortable sticking this in the 'drama' shelves of your local video st-- right, Netflix, in the 'drama' section of Netflix.
2. It's one summer, not one night -- It struck me that Adventureland plays out like teen lives that just happened to take place in 1987, in the same way that Dazed and Confused was how a bunch of kids seemed to hang out on the day school got out, with the music and clothes falling on the favorable side of nostalgia (even when the songs sucked). For all its laughs, Superbad plays to the cinematic ideal of so much craziness conveniently happening in so little time, and while that worked in that case, this film aims for something a bit more autobiographical, which tends to leave stuff like penis drawing flashback montages out of the picture.
3. It's not all cock-punching -- The current TV spots play up the presence of the feasibly obnoxious Frigo (Matt Bush), who has a penchant for abrupt groin assaults, and then encourage viewers to check out the restricted trailer online, which -- if memory serves -- contains just about every 'naughty bit' that the film has to offer in the space of roughly ninety seconds (actually, it's more like a minute once the set-up's done). One minute of f-bombs does not a raunchy film make.
4. Read the reviews -- I don't know that I'm as gushy on the film as many critics already seem to be (as of this afternoon, the Tomatometer stands at 87% approval from 15 critics, with Superbad currently residing at... actually the same score, albeit with over ten times as many reviews). So while it seems fair to say that they're both good movies, I still don't believe they're quite comparable. Even our own Erik Davis noted right out of the gate at Sundance that "first off, no matter what the trailer may show you, this is in no way Superbad, circa 1987 -- so get that out of your head now."
5. From the director of "The Daytrippers" -- This ties back to the first two points somewhat. Adventureland is the third feature directed by Mottola, and the second written by him, so it stands to reason that the film might be more like 1997's indie dramedy about a family inadvertently bonding through one day of detours in NYC. Of course, here's where the simple math of the matter comes into play -- that film grossed $2 million twelve years ago, whereas Superbad grossed $121 million a mere two years ago. Again, I get the angle -- I get that Superbad is what'll get butts in seats -- but I still think it's a bit of a stretch.
6. Jesse Eisenberg was Michael Cera before Cera was -- I fully understand the comparisons to Michael Cera that Jesse Eisenberg is getting with regards to this film and without mention of Superbad. They both have the socially-awkward-white-boy-on-the-verge-of-becoming-a-man bit down pat. But as with the seemingly ancient The Daytrippers, Cera's work in 2008's Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, 2007's Juno and (of course) Superbad seem to overshadow Eisenberg's similar and similarly effective performances in 2005's The Squid and the Whale and 2002's Roger Dodger.
7. It's not strictly a work comedy -- The other facet of the marketing campaign that's getting an understandable push is whether or not you, the viewer, can relate to the crappy job that our protagonists are slaving away at. Maybe half of the film, though, is actually spent at the eponymous amusement park (and then maybe half of those scenes have a hint of Hader and Wiig's welcome goofiness). Again, it's not a bad thing that the film is concerned with the whole of their lives, and it makes sense for a thirty-second sell -- Superbad + groin attacks + lame job = opening weekend -- but the next Waiting... or Empire Records or Clerks or Citizen Kane, this is not.