Sunday, April 19, 2009

Let's All Work at Decrepit Kennywood

The positive reviews of Adventureland are right on the mark, and a good thing too, considering the mediocre reports about the adaptation of Mysteries of Pittsburgh -- at least one of the two current coming-of-age films set in the Burgh should be a winner. Adventureland kind of quietly goes about its business -- it's not aiming for being hilarious, but it's consistently very funny; on the dramatic side of the equation, similarly, it's got a plot in the usual shape but one that develops some unexpected turns and keeps the story's momentum going. The Post-Gazette's reviewer noted that the side characters are well drawn and treated sympathetically where it would have been easy to make cheap caricatures out of them, which is very true. It's a very satisfying movie. The mid-1980s setting gives it a little bit of an anti-nostalgic kick (or an ironic-nostalgic one) without going overboard on the period trappings.

Scenery-wise, it's fun to identify the various corners of Kennywood they filmed, particularly the corner over by the Jackrabbit and the Racer. They smartly take advantage of one shot looking over the valley the Thunderbolt dips down into, where the smokestacks across the river are visible in the background. (Kennywood's one real intersection with the industrial character of the city.) It being a movie about a smaller, crappier park, it's by necessity focused more on the smaller, whirlier rides; in particular, the Music Express (which I think is what it's actually called in the park, too) gets a lot of screen time. Actually, if Kennywood doesn't spend this whole summer blasting "Rock Me Amadeus" out of the thing then they're passing up a real opportunity. Outside of the park, Pittsburgh gets a limited amount of exposure, although the 16th Street Bridge stands in for an oft-shown makeout spot backdrop despite its dubious real-life seclusion.

In short: highly recommended for anyone who grew up going to Kennywood and/or enjoys watching a smartly done nerds-coming-of-age flick. Which I'm pretty sure is everyone who could plausibly be reading this.


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