I bought this movie because I really enjoyed Jesse Eisenberg in Zombieland and it was written and directed by Greg Mottola, who made Superbad, which I loved. While this is completely different from both of those movies, it’s still a lot of fun.
Adventureland is a coming of age dramedy set in the eighties. Eisenberg is James Brennan, an uptight recent college graduate who was planning to travel through Europe over summer, until his parents tell him they can no longer support him while he’s away at grad school in New York that fall. To pay his way, he gets a job at the amusement park, Adventureland. Kristen Stewart also stars as a love interest for Eisenberg, who is also having an affair with Ryan Reynolds, an older married douche.
Eisenberg basically plays the only character he ever does. Whether it’s Mark Zuckerburg or the magician from Now You See Me, he always comes across as an arrogant young guy who thinks he knows everything. In films like The Social Network, it works but here it is a problem because he is unlikable. You really don’t have much sympathy for his character and you’re not terribly concerned if things go pear shaped for him.
What saves this movie is the supporting cast. Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig are great as the husband and wife amusement park owners, and Ryan Reynolds plays a douche better than most. Even Kristen Stewart is likeable. This was made before Kristen Stewart fell in love with a pasty vampire stalker, and she’s never been better. I read that during the filming of this movie was when she found out she’d been cast as Bella Swan in Twilight. Watching this movie, I really wonder what happened to her. In the Twilight films and that awful Snow White flick she made, it’s almost become her trademark to be wooden with a lack of emotion. But here, she is fun and you really hope she realises what a dud Ryan Reynolds is.
Another great aspect of this film is that it’s set in the eighties. There are so many awesome eighties references (such as the cast’s love for ‘compact disc players’) and the soundtrack is awesome. I liked it, but if you really want a great coming of age movie, check out The Way Way Back.
I honestly don’t know what to write about Adventureland. The “coming of age” genre is one that is so full of cliche that it’s hard to find a film that feels fresh. This movie tries to set itself apart. I’m just not sure it entirely succeeds.
The standard tropes are all there: an early 20s protagonist just out of college; a surprise wrench thrown into his plans; a love interest with her own family drama; feelings develop, and are rejected; life altering mistakes are made; and finally the realization that even when life doesn’t go to plan, you can still make it work.
Adventureland does blend comedy and drama quite well, and the setting of an amusement park lends itself to some funny set ups. Plus, the 1980s timeframe is always a favorite of mine. The clothes and music are either great or terrible, but always enjoyable because of their ridiculousness.
The acting is good. Jesse Eisenberg doesn’t exactly shine, because he’s basically playing the same role he always plays, but he does give a solid performance. Ryan Reynolds plays a convincing enough attractive sleaze. I can say that Kristen Stewart is actually great outside of Twilight. She looks genuinely happy and like she’s having fun for most of the film, but when her character does work the pained and moody expressions there’s real cause for it.
Overall, Adventureland is a solid movie. Not the best, but certainly not the worst.