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Adventureland (2009)

It was the worst job they ever imagined... and the best time of their lives.

Rating: 8/10

Running Time: 107 minutes

US Certificate: R UK Certificate: 15


Right there in the middle of the trailer, it’s fate was sealed one way or the other—“From the director of ‘Superbad’”—which set everyone up to think they knew what they were getting when they went to see “Adventureland.” It would be funny, a little raunchy, and strangely sweet, one of those coming-of-age things that has lots of sex and jokes about balls and boobs, but that ultimately gets you to love the charming and slightly hapless hero who will somehow wind up with a hot girl, against all odds. This is a much better film that that, and strangely, seems fresh and original because it’s simply a good story.

James Brennan (Jesse Eisenberg) may have just suffered a graduation heartbreak when his girlfriend of eleven days dumps him, but he’s looking forward to trekking through Europe on a post-graduation trip and starting over in the fall as a journalism major in graduate school. All those plans are shot to hell, though, when James’s father suffers a pay cut and funds become tight, forcing James to forego Europe, rethink school and get a job at the carnival-themed Adventureland. Amidst ring tosses and giant stuffed pandas, James finds new friends, love in the form of a girl named Em (Kristen Stewart), and a whole bunch of growing up carny drama.

“Adventureland” works because it doesn’t try to be clever, it doesn’t try to go raunchy, it doesn’t make up its own language, and it doesn’t have Michael Cera playing James. Nothing against Cera, but he would’ve turned James into the exact same guy that ambles through “Juno,” “Superbad,” and “Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist”—not a bad guy, but always the SAME guy. It’s clear James is supposed to be that type of character, all awkward and funny but sort of like an “every guy,” but Eisenberg brings an intelligence to the part that’s subtle, yet enough to start the film off feeling different from the beginning. More like “The Wonder Years” than “Superbad,” “Adventureland” is like hanging out with people you like against a sweet eighties soundtrack, like the way it feels in the summer when everything and nothing is going on at once—like when the fair is in town. Oh, and forget “Twilight”—Kristen Stewart really can act, and the sooner she can get away from those doofy vamps, the better. This is a comedy that doesn’t go for the obvious or the crude—it just carries you along and lets you laugh.

It's Got: Very enjoyable characters, a good heart, subtle and funny performances

It Needs: A different marketing strategy

DVD Extras Audio Commentary (director Greg Mottola and Eisenberg); a digital copy, a featurette called “Picture Music Selection”; a Making Of called, “Just My Life: The Making of Adventureland,” Deleted Scenes DVD Extras Rating: 8/10


Not the film it was advertised to be, “Adventureland” is actually a very sweet movie with people you’ll like that is the antidote to just about every raunchy teen sex comedy ever.