Another theme park movie? 'Adventureland' hits theaters Friday
By Robert NilesThe genre of theme park movies pretty much begins and ends with "National Lampoon's Vacation."
Published: April 1, 2009 at 9:06 PM
Until this week.
Friday, Greg Mottola's "Adventureland" hits screens in the United States. Mottola most recently directed the comedy "Superbad," and earlier worked with Judd Apatow on the TV show "Undeclared." But before any of that, Mottola was... an amusement park employee. The now-44-year-old worked in the 1980s at a Long Island amusement park called Adventureland, and has written and filmed a movie loosely based on that experience.
Jesse Eisenberg, Martin Starr star. Photo courtesy Miramax.
They've kept the name, but shot the movie at Pittsburgh's Kennywood, which filmmakers grunged up to look like a more decrepit '80s suburban carnival park. In Mottola's film, working in a park isn't a glamor job: The movie's website tag line? "Long hours. Low pay. High times."
Yeah, expect a lot of stoner jokes in the flick, which, like Superbad, revolved around a smart, earnest young geek trying to make it with any one of a number of elusive girls. In the end, though, the main character tones down the nerd act, gains some cool and gets some of what he's, um, been looking for.
As someone who also spent his first year out of college, in the late 1980s, working in a theme park, this movie hits very close to home. It's not exactly a twin of my life's story, though. I was fortunate enough to work at Walt Disney World, hardly a lousy amusement park, and the next joint I smoke would be my first. (Was that TMI on TPI? Whatever.)
But working in a park affected me deeply, too. Mottola made a movie. I built a website. Okay, I worked at a better park than Mottola did, but he'll make far, far, far more cash off his project than I'll ever see off mine.
Still, I thank him for inspiring me to spend several hours on the Magic Kingdom West Attractions Alumni Facebook page, clicking through hundreds of old pictures, remembering faces and incidents I'd since forgotten, but swiftly remembered.
I've spent almost two decades working in journalism, traveling the country and meeting people from disabled farm workers to U.S. Senators. But working in a theme park remains, by far, the most social job I've every held. Every month I worked at the Magic Kingdom was crammed with rich moments that could fill several movies. I was invited to an advance screening of the movie, but could not attend. But I'm looking forward to hearing what Theme Park Insider readers have to say after the movie opens on Friday.
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