6 Apr 2009
Don’t let the ads fool you – despite being director Greg Mottola’s follow-up to his breakout hit Superbad, Adventureland has little in common with the popular teen comedy. With less dick jokes and more emo brooding, Adventure has few of his first film’s laugh-out-loud moments and a lot more drama. Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing...
Set in the summer of 1987, The Squid and the Whale’s Jesse Eisenberg is all set to take a post-college tour of Europe – until his parents’ money problems force him to stay home and work at the local amusement park instead. But the minimum wage job turns out to have its perks when Eisenberg’s James meets Em (Twilight’s Kristen Stewart), another “complicated” soul also stuck at Adventureland. As James and Em navigate a summer of mixed signals and messy relationships, they both end up learning that bad decisions and poor circumstances don’t have to define who they are – or what they want to become.
With its 1980s setting and focus on the character’s relationships rather than their improv skills, Adventureland feels a lot more like a John Hughes movie than a Judd Apatow one. And depending on what you’re in the mood for, that’ll likely end up making or breaking the movie for you. Personally, I could’ve used a few more laughs out of the promising cast – Bill Hader steals his share of scenes as the amusement park’s owner, but the equally-hilarious Kristen Wiig is criminally underused as his wife.
Otherwise, Jesse Eisenberg essentially does his best Michael Cera impression but to his credit, handles the movie’s dramatic scenes far more convincingly than Cera ever could’ve in this role. It’s Stewart who’s the film’s real weak link though. At first you could be forgiven for confusing her obvious discomfort and reluctant vulnerability for “depth,” but when the plot calls for a little more than just mussing her hair and biting her lip, Stewart’s unable to provide it. For most of the film’s 107 minutes, you get the distinct impression she just plain doesn’t want to be there. Sometimes she gets lucky and that works for her character, sometimes it doesn’t.
Most of us can sympathize with the experience of holding down a crappy summer job, which is why Adventureland ultimately feels like a lot of wasted potential. Sure the movie has its share of sweet moments, but a few cute scenes here and there isn’t really enough. I expected more than that – and if you do too, I’d recommend steering away from Adventureland until it hits DVD.
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