to make two things very clear about Adventureland
in this review. First, Adventureland is a great,
coming of age dramedy with a strong cast and fine story
telling. The second thing to note is that this is not the
movie that is being promoted by the studio.
were to believe the trailers, the commercials, the theatre
stand ups and just about any other promotional attempt for
Adventureland, you would rest assured that this
movie was a hilarious teen romp in the same vein as Superbad.
It makes sense of course, being that Adventureland is directed
by Superbad helmer, Greg Mottola. But I have seen
Superbad, my friends, and Adventureland
is no Superbad.
by the current ad campaign, one might think Adventureland
tells the story of a bunch of misfit teens working at a
run-down theme park and getting into all sorts of wacky
adventures. And it is… sort of. Except the “wacky
adventures” these young adults get into are real and
honest problems that face young people today -- even if
it is set twenty years ago.
in the summer of 1987, the movie focuses on James Brennan
(The perfectly awkward Jesse Eisenberg) as a fresh out of
college kid who’s still kind of green around the ears.
His grandiose plans for a European vacation go out the window,
along with the income boost he was expecting for his graduation
present, when his parents come under a financial hardship.
Now required to join the work force with absolutely no job
experience, the only place in town that will hire him is
the local theme park named in the title.
at the park, James encounters all the different, quirky
characters that operate and occupy Adventureland. Joel (Martin
Starr) is the nerdy and helpful sidekick that shows James
the ins and outs of the park. Bobby and Paulette (SNL’s
Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig) are the patriarchal owners
and operators and Mike Connell (Ryan Reynolds) is the resident
ladies man/mechanic. However the Adventureland employee
that makes the biggest impression on James is Em, the quiet
and independent girl who works the arcade (Twilight’s
has its share of Superbad moments. James’
nut punching, childhood friend Tommy Frigo (Matt Bush) brings
a familiar annoyance to James’ life and Bobby and
Paulette’s random wackiness are fun, but both feel
out of place once the crux of the story gets moving.
Superbad, director Mottola gives us a very realistic
approach to the young adult’s life in Adventureland,
and the reality of this film is that a young person’s
life isn’t always a raunchy sex comedy. It’s
an honest approach as James learns from other awkward twenty
somethings how not to be an awkward twenty something.
And like any other solid coming of age flick, James learns
about friendship, loyalty and love, all the while doing
the worst job he could imagine. Sometimes life is like that.
You find out some of the best times in your life may have
started out as some of your worst.
Adventureland is strongest is in its young cast.
Eisenberg is convincingly and painfully awkward and innocent
as James. His inexperience is refreshing and we learn along
with him as he navigates the social waters of his new found
social playground. Stewart is great as the vulnerable and
wounded Em, and she pulls it off well. She’s not the
hottest girl in the park, but she’s the coolest for
sure. Martin Starr channels a little bit of his “Bill”
character from Freaks and Geeks, but still gives
us a believable intellectual who’s socially pained.
And then of course, there’s Ryan Reynolds, who’s
mostly known for his comedy roles, but turns in a smart
and careful performance here that is powerfully subtle.
all these great performances from a great young cast, you
get a great story of growing up, disappointment, fulfillment
and heartbreak. Then you throw in Bill Hader and Kristen
Wiig talking about corn dogs and googily eyes and you get
almost as if there are two universes at work here in this
film. There’s the real world that James and his problem
exist in, and then there’s the comedic world where
Bobby and Paulette exist and at times it can be a little
distracting. Almost like how The Office’s
Michael Scott’s world differs from his employees at
Dunder Mifflin – one’s purpose is to create
comedy and the others is ground the story in the real world.
is a real movie and when it exists in the real world, it’s
a nice piece of drama. When it tries to visit a farcical
land of over the top comedy it sometimes derails. However,
if the studio was smart, they’d start marketing Adventureland
to the Twilight set, seeing as how this movie is
more or less a love story with Kristen Stewart. And look
how well the last love story with her in it did.