Directed by: Greg Mottola
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Martin Starr
When college grad James finds out that his summer trip to Europe and attendance at an Ivy League school have been postponed, he’s instead forced to fend for himself by taking a full-time job at the local amusement park, Adventureland. During his stay, James meets many a charismatic co-worker, including that of the lovely Em, of whom immediately catches his eye and soon becomes his love interest. As time at Adventureland trudges slowly along, James inevitably comes across an obstacle or two that, although tough to cope with, aid in his own much-needed self-discovery.
While several marketing mishaps may have had Superbad fans scrambling to their seats opening day, Adventureland is assuredly not in the same vein as Mottola’s previous directorial effort, to say the least. Instead, we’re graced with a sweet, believable semi-autobiographical account of what it’s like to work that dreadful summer job just about everyone would never like to have. This in mind, Adventureland‘s laid back, yet undoubtedly effective style of humor helps contribute to this all-too-appealing believability factor, allowing us as viewers to revel in copious amounts of nostalgia if appropriate and appreciate the film’s wholly original approach to a genre that’s become a little too familiar over the past few years.
What makes Adventureland stand out even more amongst an avalanche of mediocre romantic comedies is its apparent lack of quirkiness in favor of further embracing Mottola’s intentions. Granted, it does touch upon several relatively hackneyed coming-of-age subjects, including the perils of relationships, a behind-the-scenes look at a much less than desirable job, and above all, apparent overuse of drugs and alcohol, but then again, what film of its type doesn’t? Thankfully, the script possesses a perfect balance between these elements in addition to some truly intelligent dialogue, allowing plenty of room for the film to shift from moments of sidesplitting humor to those of a less happier nature with great ease.
As for the cast, Eisenberg provides us with a knockout portrayal of James, bringing a substantial amount of emotion to the role and delivering every line with enough charisma to aid in making him believable as the film’s central character. The supporting cast is also terrific, with Bill Hader, Martin Starr, and newcomer Matt Bush providing us with ample laughs, and Ryan Reynolds proving he’s capable of portraying something other than a college fraternity stereotype, even if not by much. In fact, the only performance I’m unsure about to this day is Stewart’s, seeing how her very noticeable style of “method” acting tends to get in the way of letting me appreciate the film in the fullest. While her efforts are very respectable and the chemistry exhibited between Em and James is relatively spot-on, her mannerisms become a little too much to ignore, i.e. excessive lip biting, halting speech, and so forth.
That being said, Adventureland can safely be considered one of those films that successfully exceeded my expectations and then some. While those looking for another Superbad will undoubtedly be disappointed, it’s hard to deny the film’s overwhelming charm and believable nature thanks to some terrific dialogue, excellent performances, and a knack for portraying the decade in question without embracing too many clichés. So, when it comes down to it, Adventureland can most definitely be recommended to those looking for an original approach to a tried-and-true Hollywood formula, even if some elements may not appeal to everyone.