Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Bill Hader
Directed by: Greg Mottola (“Superbad”)
Written by: Greg Mottola (“The Daytrippers”)
Thematically speaking, “Adventureland,” the new comedy by “Superbad” director Greg Mottola, is fairly familiar. It’s a coming-of-age story that doesn’t necessarily break new ground but is so conscious of its own sensitive nature, each character the script introduces is like seeing a good friend after a long break.
If you’re looking for another hilariously raunchy night out with the boys like you got with “Superbad,” you’re not going to find it here. In “Adventureland,” there are shades of Mottola’s witty and bawdy sense of humor, but most of it (aside from some of the few repetitious jokes) fades nicely into the entire story.
Set in Pittsburgh in 1987, “Adventureland” follows recent college graduate and self-admitting virgin James Brennan (Jesse Eisenberg, AKA Michael Cera-lite, who was great in The Squid and the Whale) as he is forced to get a summer job when his father is demoted from his job. Instead of spending the summer traveling Europe with his friend and discovering himself, James must now save up as much money as possible if he still plans to move to New York and attend Colombia University to major in journalism.
With an undergraduate degree in comparative literature, which he says “doesn’t even qualify him for manual labor,” James settles for a lame position working game booths at the tacky local theme park. There he meets a cast of characters including love interest Em Lewin (Kristen Stewart), a NYU student who hates her stepmother and seems to be just passing the time. Martin Starr (“Freaks and Geeks”) plays nerdy friend Joel, one of the only intelligent beings working at the park, and a miscast Ryan Reynolds is Mike Connell, the grown-up maintenance guy whose claim to fame was jamming out with Velvet Underground’s Lou Reed a few years prior.
Less about the actual theme park and more about relationships and love triangles between new acquaintances, “Adventureland” is different because it spotlights the awkwardness everyone still find themselves battling even when they’re away from the cliché high school backdrop. Director Mottola is working with young adults here, not teenagers, who have come to the realization that life may never get better than what they are currently experiencing. It’s a darkly funny combination of charming romantic comedy plot points, modest 80s references, and an underlying depressing motif that makes the film feel all the more satisfying.