- Rated: R
- Genre: Comedy/Drama
- Studio: Sidney Kimmel Entertainment
The year is 1987, James Brennan (Jesse Eisenberg) is a twenty-something youth about to embark on a European adventure of a lifetime filled with foreign culture and cute French girls entirely subsidized by his parents. Sadly, financial hardship has befallen the family and his parents tell him that they can no longer fund his trip, let alone graduate school in the fall. Desperate, strapped for cash and not even suitable for manual labor, James finds himself stranded in Pennsylvania working a dead-end minimum wage job at a run-down, self-professedly “fantastic” amusement park known as Adventureland. Oh the irony… or is it?
What started out as seemingly the worst summer of James’ life instead turns into quite an adventure when he meets and falls in love with Emily “Em” Lewin (Kristen Stewart), a fellow game booth attendant who saves him from a knifing over a giant-ass-panda. Additionally, he finds himself connecting with other employees in the desolate hell of Adventureland filled with spoiled corndogs, repetitive disco songs (one of the funnier moments in the film) and systemically rigged games where customers aren’t suppose to ever win a giant-ass-panda.
Although Adventureland is listed as a comedy, truth be told, it’s rather somber and savagely depressing at times. Cue scenes with Em. Cue scenes with Joel. Cue scenes even with Connell. That’s not to say the movie isn’t funny or that this is a depressing movie (hardly the case). There are actually a handful of laugh-out-loud moments, especially the scenes with Bobby (Bill Hader), Adventureland’s owner and his faithful yet odd wife, Paulette (Kristin Wiig).
My criticism with this movie is two-fold. First, none of the characters are really likeable. In fact, most appeared fairly spoiled and pampered — all with the exception of Joel who is probably the only likable character in the entire movie. I’m not sure if this was done intentionally by Mottola, but there was a scene between James and Joel where the audience had a chance to see the difference in how Joel and James lived. And at the end of the scene, Joel tells James that “he’d never understand” what it’s like to be him, to not be good looking or rich.
Overall, Mottola’s Adventureland is an average film lacking heart with some glaring flaws that limit it from ever standing out or becoming memorable. What it is is a wannabe coming of age film. Self indulgently drafted and not as good as it could have or should have been. Is it entertaining? Sure. Is it watchable? Definitely. Does Kristen Stewart appear naked? You’ll have to watch to find out. In the end is Adventureland really any fun? Not really.