Rating: R (language, drug use, and sexual dialogue)
Length: 107 minutes
Release date: April 3, 2009
Directed by: Greg Mottola
Stars: 3 out of 5
“Adventureland” is a period piece starring Jesse Eisenberg (“The Social Network”), Kristen Stewart (“Twilight”), Kristen Wiig (“Bridesmaids”), Ryan Reynolds (“Smokin’ Aces”), Martin Star (“Knocked Up”), and Bill Hader (“Pineapple Express). The film is set in 1987 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and it centers around Eisenberg’s character James Brennan. James recently graduated from college and plans to tour Europe during the summer before attending graduate school at Columbia University. His plans are derailed after his father loses his job. Instead of traveling throughout Europe as planned, James must get a summer job so he can afford to attend Columbia University in the fall. The only job James is able to land is at “Adventureland,” a crummy local theme park that pays very low wages.
Bobby, played by Hader, is James’ eccentric manager, and he runs the park with his wife Paulette, played by Wiig. James is assigned to work in the games section of the amusement park. He works closely with a pipe-smoking smart and sarcastic man named Joel, played by Starr, and with Stewart’s character Emily, a young lady with a rich father and a host of personal problems. James and Joel end up becoming friends, and Emily and James begin to bond after she saves him from an irate and violent customer.
Emily decides to throw a house party when her parents are out of town. She invites multiple coworkers to the party, including James. At the party, James and Emily have a great time playing around in the swimming pool, and it is revealed that James is not only sexually attracted to Emily, but he also feels emotionally connected to her. Reynold’s character Mike, a musician who works at the amusement park part-time as a maintenance man, also has a thing for Emily and has been having an affair with her behind his wife’s back.
One week after the party, James confesses to Emily that he’s a virgin. The two share an intimate kiss, but Emily upsets James by telling him she wants to take things slow. Eventually, a romance does develop between James and Emily, and James ultimately learns many life lessons because of his relationship with her and other individuals he works with at “Adventureland.” What started out as a crummy summer job at a run-down amusement park ended up being the beginning of James’ life as a man. Director Greg Mottola did a great job choosing the characters of this film, who each feel like real people going through real-life problems that young and mature adults can relate to.
“Adventureland” is based on the life of director Greg Mottola, who, like James, was a nerdy and socially awkward “late bloomer.” Jesse Eisenberg does a great job playing these types of roles, which made him the perfect choice for the character James. Kristen Stewart was a good choice for Emily. Most people are used to seeing her play stoic characters that lack feeling and emotion, so playing Emily was a great departure for her. Emily is an emotionally damaged girl who was sexually abused, and Stewart makes this character very believable because of the range of emotions she’s able to convey throughout the movie. Ryan Reynolds also shocked audiences with his portrayal of Mike. Mike is another severely flawed character and would probably be a villain in most films. However, audiences will enjoy watching Mike because Reynolds’ portrayal of him is so realistic and relatable.
Critics of “Adventureland” did not like that the film was marketed as a comedy. Prior to directing this film, Greg Mottola directed the comedy “Superbad,” a box office hit written by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg that many consider to be one of the funniest teenage comedies of all time. “Adventureland” was Mottola’s next film after “Superbad,” and the trailer for “Adventureland” makes audiences believe that “Adventureland” would also be a laugh-out-loud comedy like Mottola’s previous film. While there are some funny moments in this movie, “Adventureland” is much more dramatic than it is funny, and many critics agreed that it should have been marketed as a drama.
Although “Adventureland” received mostly positive reviews, it did not perform well at the box office. A few of its cast members did earn award nominations for their roles in this film. Eisenberg received a Teen Choice Award nomination for his portrayal of James, and the film received a Gotham Independent Film Award nomination for Best Ensemble Cast. If you enjoy watching coming-of-age movies with real-life characters that remind you of people you encounter in your everyday life, “Adventureland” is a movie you’ll likely enjoy.