“Ian Watches” PGH Movie of the Week: Adventureland

In Movies
Adventureland (film)

Adventureland (film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is the inaugural post of what will hopefully become a weekly event. Basically I watch movies based or filmed in and around the Pittsburgh area, give a quick spiel about the movie, and display all of the Pittsburgh locations shown in the movie. That way, if you so please, you can visit said locations and say, “Hey, Batman was on this sidewalk!” If that’s the kind of thing you’re into. Also for those movies filmed in Pittsburgh, but not set in Pittsburgh in the movie’s plot, I will reveal the giveaways of how the movie messed up in hiding the fact that it’s Pittsburgh (kind of a snobby, “nice try, but you won’t fool us!” kind of thing). For film suggestions that you’d like to see, please comment or submit them via e-mail at Ian@IheartPGH.com

This week’s installment is the 2009 comedy Adventureland, starring the likes of Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Ryan Reynolds, Bill Hader, and Kristen Wiig, among others. It was filmed on location at Kennywood park and some other local areas that we’ll get to later. Set in 1987, it’s about a recent college graduate who ends up living at home for the summer in Pittsburgh and working a job at the local theme park “Adventureland” (Kennywood). It’s a little dated, but seeing as it’s early into Summer, I thought it would be an appropriate start with all of the Kennywood picnic outings and memorable (for better or worse) summer jobs in full swing. Plus, it seems like plenty of people still make the connection between Kennywood and the film.

Though I wouldn’t recommend it for everyone (it garnered an R rating “for language, drug use, and sexual references”), I thought it was a charming, funny, coming-of-age/finding-your-place film. It’s well-casted and there are Pittsburgh references and familiar sites all throughout the film.

However, within moments of the start when Eisenberg’s character learns that he has to live at home during the summer, one of his snobby, yuppie friends comments “Summer in Pittsburgh, that’s [expletive] harsh.” To which Eisenberg responds, “They don’t like people like us where I’m from, we’re romantics.” Speak for yourself, pal! Another unbelievable part occurs when Eisenberg’s character scoffs at the idea of taking journalism courses at Pitt with the possibility of interning on “Mister Roger’s Neighborhood,” calling it a “children’s show with marionettes.” Now what Pittsburgher in their right mind would ever have anything negative to say about Fred Rogers?

Grudges aside, there are some other nice local references. For instance, one character tries to get Lisa P. (the “popular” 80’s chick working the Music Express) to go to a Judas Priest concert at the Civic Arena. Although I’ve found no evidence that Judas Priest actually ever played the Civic Arena, the small detail was a nice touch. The rest of the soundtrack is pretty awesome as well, especially if you like Lou Reed. Eisenberg makes K-Stew cassette mix tapes with Lou Reed songs and talks about how he’s his personal hero, while Ryan Reynolds claims to have jammed with Lou Reed to the awe of all his coworkers (even though he consistently mispronounces “Satellite of Love” at one point). Seriously, Lou Reed is all over this movie (I ain’t mad). Note: there are some nice shots of local sites in the video as well.

Woah heads up, Jack Lambert jersey sighting:

Move K-Stew, there's a vintage Yinzer behind you!

Move K-Stew, there’s a vintage Yinzer behind you!

Anyways, there are some other really awesome Kennywood locations featured throughout the movie. Here are just a few that I picked out:

Check out Eisenberg and Reynolds hanging out by the shooting gallery, which I’m unsure is even still in existence.

Ah, Eisenberg and Reynolds are at it again (best friends forever)! This time at the Music Express.

And what’s this? Are those some Parachutes I spy lighting up the background? This was during the 4th of July scene of the movie (another popular real-life Kennywood affair) and there’s a great shot of fireworks lighting up the sky over “the Racer.”

You may recognize many of the sites in just the opening credits as well, like the 16th Street Bridge (which gets a lot of action throughout the film), hills lined with houses in Homestead, and the Stardust Lounge in Moon Township (it’s a real bar).

16th St. Bridge

16th St. Bridge

Homestead and the Phantom's Revenge

Homestead and the Phantom’s Revenge

Homestead (background) and the Thunderbolt

Homestead (background) and the Thunderbolt

The Stardust Lounge in Moon Township

The Stardust Lounge in Moon Township, a popular hang-out in Adventureland

So there are some of the spots featured in Adventureland. Trust me, there are plenty more, and if you haven’t seen the movie, check it out (if you’re over the age of 17 and are not offended by  “language, drug use, and sexual references” of course). Then you can go to Kennywood and (gasp) stand in the same spot as K-Stew or Ryan Reynolds, or just enjoy the familiar sites of summertime in Pittsburgh.

One more thing:

Ok, something’s definitely up here. Everyone knows it’s utterly impossible to have any control over the bumper cars at Kennywood (maybe all bumper cars for that matter), and to successfully enjoy them without waking up to a stiff neck since no one bothers to wear the nasty, dirty, sweatband-like material seat belts of the bumper cars and absolutley NOBODY avoids head-on collisions. But that’s why we love you Kennywood.

Remember for a movie filmed in the Pittsburgh area that you’d like to see over-analyzed for local references here, comment below or drop me a line at Ian@IheartPGH.com

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  • Harry Zivkovich

    Great post Ian. I’m pretty sure the shooting gallery is still in existence. My buddy Mike Rut and I would spend hours nailing those targets back in the good ole days!

  • jessb83

    Gonna be the nit-picky commenter – that’s Braddock, not Homestead in the background of some of those shots.

    I will say, though, as someone who worked at Kennywood in college, they nailed a lot of the details. 🙂

    • Ian

      The nit-picky comments are welcome! Especially if I made an error, thank you. Which shots?

  • Nathan Swartz

    Don’t forget the BYOB art classes (and tons of other types) at dotsanddoodlesart.com!

  • slgibbs1

    Anyone in Pittsburgh know where I can take craft painting classes? Donna Dewberry type, or one stroke, or folk art?

  • Jamie James

    forgot restaurant scene in forest hills on ardmore blvd