out of Five
Running time: 107
Sweet-natured, frequently funny coming-of-age movie with a superb script and delightful comic performances from a terrific ensemble cast.
What's it all about?
Written and directed by Greg Mottola (Superbad, The Day Trippers), Adventureland is a semi-autobiographical story set in the 1980s. Jesse Eisenberg (The Squid and the Whale) stars as highly strung college graduate James Brennan, who has to take a summer job at the Adventureland amusement park when his Europe trip plans fall through due to an economic downturn.
Initially, James views Adventureland as the job from hell, but he soon makes friends with philosophical, pipe-smoking game booth worker Joel Schiffman (Martin Starr) and it isn't long before he's developed a massive crush on sharp-tongued arcade girl Em Lewin (Kristen Stewart). At the same time, James gets valuable life lessons from supercool maintenance man Mike Connell (Ryan Reynolds), who is rumoured to have once jammed with Lou Reed.
Jesse Eisenberg is perfectly cast as James; he comes across as a better looking teenage version of Woody Allen and delivers a series of extremely amusing one-liners. He also has appealing chemistry with Kristen Stewart, who brings a lot of depth to what could have been one of those manic pixie dream girl-type roles and also demonstrates some hitherto unsuspected comic timing.
In addition, Mottola has assembled a terrific comic cast that includes: Ryan Reynolds, whose likeable charm transforms what is, on paper, an essentially unsympathetic character; Martin Starr, who's both laugh-out-loud funny and quietly heartbreaking as Joel; Margerita Levieva, who, like Stewart, brings unexpected depth and complexity to the character of the universally lusted-after Lisa P; and a wonderful double act from comic geniuses Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig as park managers Bobby and Paulette, who basically steal every scene they're in.
The script crackles with great dialogue throughout and also manages to be genuinely moving without the usual nose-dive into sentimentality.
Adventureland is a hugely entertaining coming-of-age comedy with great characters, a witty script and delightful comic performances. Highly recommended.