'Adventureland' cast gets it just right

It's become a genre unto itself: coming-of-age films that focus not on adolescents, but on those twenty-something boy-men who are grappling with and resisting the prospect of actually having to grow up. As if adulthood, and all it represents — responsibility, commitment, employment — should be, if not avoided, at least postponed. How long is never made clear.

Films such as "Knocked Up," "The 40-Year-Old Virgin," "Forgetting Sarah Marshall," and "I Love You, Man" are all predicated on crude language, cheap laughs and superficial, stereotypical views of women.

"Adventureland" is the antidote to these innocuous films. It's not a shallow knockoff, and it easily could have been. Set in a tacky amusement park, in 1987, spanning one summer, it might have wallowed in gratuitous, comedy-porn dialogue, seasoned with nonsensical slapstick. It doesn't. It reaches for more.

True, the film focuses on young people. But it does so with insight and sensitivity. It's well-written and wonderfully acted with a solid ensemble, each getting it just right.

The setup finds one James Brennan (Jessie Eisenberg), just graduated from college, hoping to spend the summer in Europe, followed by grad school at Colombia in the fall. His plans are derailed when the family hits a financial rough patch. Instead of Europe, he ends up working at Adventureland, running one of the many game booths On his first day as a carney, James meets Em (Kristen Stewart), a student at NYU, attractive, enigmatic and seemingly out of reach. With the introduction of Em, the film shifts focus, giving her equal time, and thus creating a much stronger and far more interesting movie from the standard guy-centric fare.

From the first moment James and Em meet, it is clear that he is drawn to her. But this isn't simply a courtship film wherein the guy pursues and then reports back to his buds, giving them way too much information.

To its credit, "Adventureland" involves more than one focus allowing a number of characters to emerge, but never as caricatures. Each is interesting, and each has a story.

Stewart is a remarkable actress, recognizable from her work in "Twilight." She infuses Em with subtlety and nuance and all but steals the film from Jesse Eisenberg, so strong is her performance.

"Adventureland" is a sweet film, satisfying and entertaining to the end. And don't be mislead by the title. This is an adventure to be sure, but one of the heart.

Fast & Furious

Fast & Furious," as a franchise, has had legs and there's a good possibility it's not over yet. Another couple of films, however, and the actors will all be middle-aged.

Truth is, you can't have a serious IRA and still credibly insist you're a gear-head who lives to drive jacked-up imports and muscle cars with tricked-out suspension and engines that scream speed, their sleek, high-gloss bodies painted the colors of some mutated rainbow — Day-Glo green, metallic maroon, raven's wing black, lustrous graveyard grey — all looking very hot.

And speaking of hot, not to forget the young women, hard bodies all, draped over the machines, eye candy for the high-octane knights who power up, ready to do some hard-core street racing during rush hour traffic, no matter the slammed metal and wrecked civilians driving sedate sedans, trying to get home by 6 after a long day sitting at a desk where they get medical and dental and have completely repressed their warrior instincts and sublimated their need to rock 'n' roll with pro football, watched from the safety of a recliner while holding a brew, and certainly not out on the mean streets slammin' and jammin' while trying to decide when to hit the nitrous-oxide injector and send said ride into orbit. Oh, yeah.

Regarding the gear-heads — those wide-eyed youngsters who will watch "Fast & Furious" with breath held, heart racing, all the while wishing they too could live the life of Dom (Vin Diesel) or Brian O'Connor (Paul Walker), where it's pedal to the medal along a precipice.

Talk about cognitive dissonance. GM and Chrysler are tanking, gas mileage is on everyone's lips, and there's not a person in this film worried about miles per gallon. This is all about loving machines — bodacious, gas-guzzling machines — and it's about a subculture that worships at the shrine of go-fast.

And speaking of subcultures, this is the real deal. "Fast & Furious" is a mirror. Of sorts. The planet is ready for green and these garage denizens, endemic to most large urban centers, are all about high performance and your granny can drive the Prius.

There is also a bit or irony here: These road jockeys take cars designed for solid mileage, go-slow driving and ratchet them up to be the complete antithesis.

So, what about plot? Characters? No worries. This is what's called a gestalt movie, meaning it's way larger than the sum of its parts. It's all about adrenaline, the rush, and the rest really doesn't matter.

Best scene in the film, bar none? The first 10 minutes when these hammerheads are trying to hijack a massive fuel truck to feed their voracious appetite and pick up some spare change as well. It's so well done, jamming your heart up into your throat, that the movie spends the next 90 minutes trying to measure up.

Will kids go see "Fast & Furious?" LOL. You betcha.

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