Saturday, September 19, 2009

Under 250: Adventureland

If I liked Adventureland the first time, I fell completely in love with it upon a second go. Adventureland is one of the most successful comedies of the year and amongst the most believable (and endearing) coming-of-age stories of the decade. Set deep within the pitch-perfect nostalgia of the 80’s, the film follows the post-collegiate trials of James Brennan (Squid & the Whale’s Jesse Eisenberg), an intellectual whose dreams of traveling Europe and university graduate programs are crushed by his the financial woes of his parents. Forced to find a summer job, James finds that with no experience, the only place willing to hire him is the local amusement park. He makes a few equally disgruntled friends and finds himself entering a conflicted relationship with a charmingly misdirected girl named Em (Kristen Stewart). What follows is a story of angst and triumph that effectively chronicles the ups and downs of being just on the verge of real responsibility. While the characters are familiar and the story swings back to John Hughes, the actors sell their roles no matter how small. The only potential weak spot here is the oddly cast Ryan Reynolds, who as the two-timing park repairman, may or may not be purposely shallow. Eisenberg, in playing himself, slam dunks his character’s archetype, and Stewart’s vulnerability reminds viewers that she is capable of far more than the cold dreck of her Twilight limitations. The references and soundtrack work as a perfect score to the summer and the film never stays in one mode for too long, striking an even balance between sex, drugs, crudity, and heart.

4.5 out of 5.

Dir. Greg Mottola, Stars: Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Martin Starr, Bill Hader, Kristen Wiig, Ryan Reynolds. Rated R, Running Time: 107 min.

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