Rated R; Directed by Greg Mottola; Starring Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Martin Starr, Ryan Reynolds, Bill Hader, Kristen Wiig
Adventureland is a surprising new film by director Greg Mottola. Mottola directed Superbad, one of the recent raunchy comedies aimed at an audience of young men. Adventureland is the kind of film that doesn’t rely on raunch. The movie gives us a real story with human characters. Sure, some of them are funny, but all seem real. It is nice to head to the movie theater and find a movie that keeps things funny by telling a story and not just a series of jokes.
Adventureland is the amusement park where college graduate James Brennan (Jesse Eisenberg) is stuck working for the summer after his plans for a European trip falls through. Miserable at this turn of events, James slowly befriends the other workers at the park. It’s Em (Kristen Stewart) that catches his attention. As the summer winds on, James gets to experience all the indignities of working in the service industry, but also learns a few things about love and life.
Adventureland is a typical coming-of-age story. The story meanders through funny and dramatic situations while James reacts to it all. Jesse Eisenberg is perfect as James. He plays the earnestly awkward type to perfection. Whether it’s letting Em know that he’s not that familiar with “intercourse” or finding himself too high while talking to his boss (played by the always hilarious Bill Hader), Eisenberg is fun to watch. Playing his love interest, Kristen Stewart gives Em depth. The supporting cast completes the fun, especially Martin Starr as Joel and Ryan Reynolds as the womanizing maintenance man.
Greg Mottola, who wrote and directed Adventureland, creates a humorous setting and a bevy of interesting characters. He set the film in 1987, but the story can fit any time period. Songs and clothes from the 1980s do play their part in the film, but it’s not too obviously played for laughs. Mottola manages to make a worthwhile movie. He doesn’t try to wrap everything up neatly at the end, allowing some story threads to remain hanging.
Mottola didn’t make another Superbad – some audience members may want another raunchy comedy, but Adventureland fills the need for character-driven stories aimed at a younger crowd. The movie gives us a funny story with sweet overtones. A good cast, a smart story, and funny scenes of working at a less than stellar amusement park, makes Adventureland worth seeing.