FRIDAY NIGHT MOVIE REVIEW: “Adventureland” stars Jesse Eisenberg (Zombieland, The End of the Tour), Kristen Stewart (Snow White and the Huntsman, Twilight), Martin Starr (Freaks and Geeks [TV series], Silicon Valley [TV series]), Ryan Reynolds (Deadpool, Pokémon Detective Pikachu), Matt Bush (The Goldbergs [TV series], The Relationtrip), Jack Gilpin (Trouble With the Curve, 21), Wendie Malick (The Emperor’s New Groove, Hot in Cleveland [TV series]), Margarita Levieva (The Lincoln Lawyer, The Invisible), Bill Hader (It Chapter Two, Inside Out ), and Kristen Wiig (The Secret Life of Walter Mitty , Bridesmaids). It is written and directed by Greg Mottola (The Daytrippers, Superbad).
After his plans to travel to Europe are squashed, recent college graduate James Brennan (Eisenberg) starts work at an amusement park over the summer, becoming entangled in relationship drama and menial labor.
I’m wrapping up this April with a little young adult summer flick. “Adventureland,” another one of Greg Mottola’s directing efforts, came out way back in 2009 with two up-and-coming performers in Hollywood (Eisenberg and Stewart) and a slew of funny supporting cast to round out a quirky story built on angst and corn dogs.
You’ve seen something like this before. A character’s plans get derailed, only for them to learn more about themselves by participating in something below themselves. In this case… an amusement park. Which has also been done. But I’m not here to point out the things that make it typical (nothing is new under the sun); rather, I am seeking to dissect why this one left me merely content than satisfied.
Set in the 80’s without the pulp of that decade-genre (honestly, it was refreshing not to have the visual excess of that), “Adventureland” plays into its backdrop by showcasing the humor of working at an amusement park over the summer. I can tell Mottola has some connection with this world, as the jokes can be quite niche (and better for it). The world is a fun one to explore, with a gaggle of low-life employees to watch have fun and dread the direction their life is going in. I loved the casting choices in this; they all meshed well and created great moments. Of course, my favorite had to be the Bill Hader-Kristen Wiig relationship. Every time they were on-screen, it was magic. A guaranteed laugh for sure.
Jesse Eisenberg does what he does best: play the likeable dweeb. What made me connect most was his situation. Graduating college, he wanted to head out and explore what the world had to offer him, but due to finances had to resort to working at a low-end job. His zero work qualifications had me laughing; it very much reminded me of myself when I was searching for a job a few years ago; walking around with a resume full of academic achievements that got me nowhere. The job I eventually got was at McDonald’s, so I can share in James’ misery.
His relationship with Kristen Stewart is an interesting one. They worked well together on screen, and Stewart’s performance was pretty solid. Not too subdued as I would usually take her. The drama that ensues on the screen between her and Eisenberg is alright, though I will admit to it being hit or miss. I don’t know if I was drained of frivolous young people romance or what, but their conflict just didn’t do it for me in the long run. By the film’s end, I really didn’t buy into James’ reasonings and choices; probably because it seemed like the whole movie was a matter of discovering who to take the chance on when getting in their pants. Too harsh? Maybe. I guess it’s just a relationship that seemed to be shown more at the beginning than what real hardships would come in seeing it develop further.
Overall, “Adventureland” boasts some quality performances with scenes that made me laugh. In true Mottola fashion, there’s a slew of characters to invest in, even if some of their arcs amount to nothing (one that I am displeased in is the father-son relationship that was never touched on after the incident with the car). I enjoyed it for what it was worth, but it’s not the kind of memorable tale to keep returning to. FINAL SCORE: 70%= Burnt Popcorn
Here is the trailer: