Amusement parks are seen as a great way to waste a summer day – thrilling, run-down rides, addicting yet rigged games and fatty, yet tasty food. Chances are, though, no one fantasizes about spending an entire summer vacation working there.
“Adventureland” centers on James Brennan, a college graduate in need of a summer job to complete his dreams of going to Columbia grad school. When he finds his knowledge of sophisticated literature and hip bands does not translate well into the real world, he begrudgingly accepts a job working a game booth at Adventureland, a depressingly neglected amusement park.
James is portrayed beautifully by Jesse Eisenberg, who is a less goofy, yet just as likeable Michael Cera, and captures the essence of a college grad who is forced to do work they have spent way too much money to avoid, never making him seem pretentious.
However, James is almost too earnest and well-intentioned for his own good, and it is hard not to sympathize with him when he puts himself in awkward situations.
Though set in 1987, this character is just as relatable in today’s society, as many graduates are still faced with similar dilemmas.
To ease James’ restlessness at work, he befriends Joel and Em, portrayed by Martin Starr and Kristen Stewart. Starr, best known as the bearded guy from “Knocked Up,” smokes a pipe and is a Russian Literature enthusiast. While he is pompous, arrogant and self-loathing, Starr somehow still makes Joel extremely sympathetic.
Stewart also proves she has a career outside of the “Twilight” series. She brings her apathetic red-carpet attitude onto the big screen with such ease and charm, stepping into a much more mature role than her past projects.
Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader serve as the amusement park’s managers Paulette and Bobby, proving, yet again, they are “Saturday Night Live’s” shining stars, stealing every moment they are on screen.
Ryan Reynolds is perfection as the typical guy who’s worked a little too long at the park and consequently thinks this makes him cool.
The problem with “Adventureland” is not the cast, though. In fact, the well-rounded cast is what makes you want the film to succeed. The problem lies in “Adventureland’s” identity crisis. With a mixture of sarcasm, sophomoric humor, sex and serious moments, its confusion transfers itself to the viewer, creating some unsure feelings and puzzled reactions.
Written and directed by “Superbad’s” Greg Mottola, “Adventureland” is a totally different film than “Superbad,” closer to “Little Miss Sunshine,” with its mix of comedy and drama. While still sexually charged and drug-filled, “Adventureland” should be viewed as a coming-of-age tale.
This is not to say, however, that “Adventureland” isn’t an accurate portrayal of the ’80s. While it certainly will not be the “Dazed and Confused” of its generation, it still embodies the music, style and attitudes accurately.
The soundtrack and stereotypical attire play a large role in the film, and Mottola does a good job of representing the emotions of not only each character, but the pathetic nature of the park itself.
Missing the typical plot twists that would warrant a comparison to a ride at the park, “Adventureland” is more like a corn dog from the concession stand – enjoyable, yet unsure of what it really is. Some mysteries are better left unsolved.