By Todd Hansen
At first, “Adventureland” seems like just another R-rated comedy with the usual laughs.When James Brennan’s parents can’t afford to send him away to Europe for the summer, he is forced to work as a lowly carnie at a local amusement park. Brennan, played by Jesse Eisenberg, falls for his co-worker Em, played by Kristen Stewart of “Twilight” fame. Their romance is complicated due to her summer-long fling with maintenance guy Mike, played by Ryan Reynolds. But soon, Em falls for Brennan as well.
From this point on, however, “Adventureland” wasn’t an obvious or stereotypical teen love story. Instead, the subject matter was grounded in reality and provided an honest telling of what would really happen.
The slapstick-comedy by writer/director Greg Mottola pulled together a strong supporting cast that provides most of the laugh-riot moments. Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig of “Saturday Night Live” fame, play the hilarious park owners. Martin Starr is exceptional as Brennan’s pothead co-worker Joel, and Matt Bush is funny as his old childhood friend, Frigo.
But the most honest role in the film is Em’s stepmother, played by Mary Birdsong, who captures the small role perfectly. A nervous wreck, Birdsong’s character is obsessed with the social scene and building her image. In fact, one of the problems with this film is that she didn’t have a bigger role.
Another drawback was the music. The movie was set in 1987, so the 1980s ballads are ones that should be forgotten.
Yet another downside was the fact that Reynolds’ character wasn’t well developed. He wasn’t funny or serious. He seemed to be there to create another obstacle for Brennan.
In spite of all the negative aspects, it may be Mottola’s best film to date.
Moviegoers expecting to see another Mottola comedy like “Superbad” should be warned. This is definitely more of a romantic comedy.
It’s hard to say how this movie will do at the box office. “Adventureland” has depth beyond the usual sex-joke driven adult comedy. It wasn’t predictable, just honest. And while it is doubtful that this film will win any awards, it was a truly exceptional movie you can bring a date to.