I watched Greg Mottola's Adventureland the other day and found it to be a pleasant and enjoyable movie, but with one big flaw: It just wasn't '80s enough.
Perhaps if I had watched it on a pan and scan TV with washed out colours I would have liked it more, but I couldn't shake the feeling the entire time that it just didn't feel right. The film is set in the 1980s, and yet the film itself doesn't seem to go to any great lengths to replicate the films of that era. I was very much aware that I was watching a movie made in 2009 starring Kristen Stewart and Jesse Eisenberg. And if that's the case and you still want to set your movie in the '80s, why not have fun with it?
Case in point would be the character of Mike played by Ryan Reynolds. Despite being miscast, the way he acts, dresses and speaks is just drab and boring. Where is the high hair and the crazy clothes? Elsewhere, where are the crazy sidekicks or the earnestness that usually runs through these films like a river. What are Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig doing here doing their usual awkward stop-start comedy. I'm sure Mottola was going for a more realistic vibe, but if you're going to set a movie in the 1980s why only do it half-arsed? I appreciated the soundtrack including left-of-centre choices like Exposé, Shannon, The Velvet Underground and Animotion and the Eisenberg/Stewart combo works nicely despite their well-known ticks (Stewart's socially-awkward performance style actually does recall Molly Ringwald at times), but I saw almost nothing in this movie that brought back that feeling of discovering a John Hughes movie on faded VHS or late night television. B-
Similarly, Sam Raimi's Drag Me To Hell is a delightful effort filled with frights and laughs aplenty, but is let down by the simple fact that excessive CGI makes the movie less enjoyable. There's no thrill in watching a character get picked up my invisible forces and thrown about a room because we know it's just visual effects. Or when embalming fluids drool over Alison Lohman's face, they're gross and disgusting and funny, but visual effects and that kick that comes from watching an actor get covered in slime just isn't there. I would have thought Raimi would have understood that so much of the charm from similar movies comes from that very home-made aesthetic. It's why so many of these remakes and reboots just aren't as satisfying as the originals. B