I have to begin this review by admitting that I commited a cardinal sin of reviewing. Going into Adventureland I immediately passed it off as another Judd Apatow style of comedy, similar to director Greg Mottola's last film Superbad. I was, in fact, dead wrong, and pleasantly so. The film is a great 80's era postcard that speaks more to the cast-offs, rather than the popular crowd. Most everyone is deep and has some issue or another. I didn't find the film to be overly funny, but more amusing.
Adventureland is a partially biographical story about a summer in Mottola's youth where he worked at a run-down amusement park. The scene is 1987 and James (Jesse Eisenberg) is a recent college grad with hopes to have a summer in Europe and then attend Columbia for grad school. These plans are thrown asunder and James must look for a job. The plot doesn't really go beyond this, but that is some of the appeal. Adventureland reminds me of a John Hughes or Richard Linklater film where the actors simply hang out, make out, get drunk or high, and do a lot of talking about nothing.
Martin Starr gives a fine performance as James' new friend Joel who makes the connection between stoner and egghead. James even has a crush on the ever angsty Em (Kristen Stewart). SNL's Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig join the cast as oddball park owners Bobby and Paulette.
Actor Jesse Eisenberg, at first, comes off as a second rate Michael Cera (Superbad, Arrested Development). He takes everything way too seriously, is awkward to most everyone, and seems to generally lack proper social interactivity. As the movie progresses James started to grow up and become much more likable. Kristen Stewart is hot off the heels of Twilight and pretty much plays the same character in this movie. I can't decide if I absolutely hate her or not, since I was hoping for a more little depth from her performance. Ryan Reynolds also puts in a good turn as Mike Connell, the park's maintenance man-of-mystery.
One aspect of this film I really appreciate is the soundtrack. With acts like Husker Du, The Replacements and The Cure, Adventureland breaks the mold of the standard 80's soundtrack and covers the underground sounds that changed the face of music as we know it. On the other hand, we are treated to multiple clips of Falco's "Rock Me Amadeus" to comedic effect.
For the most part Adventureland is fun enough to fill an hour and change, but won't set the world on fire. It may bring back a memory or two, but most certainly harkens back to a much more innocent time despite the occasional drug use.
Three 1/2 shirts