The Sundance darling of 2009 was clearly decided before it even started. People have been waiting for Greg Mottola’s followup to Superbad for quite a while now, and Adventureland is it. Although the film shouldn’t have been purchased before the festival (or at least not before the P.I. screenings), trailers for Adventureland were played nationwide before Doubt. It’s crap like this that give all those naysayers ammo when they bitch about Sundance being so commercial these days. Blah blah blah.
It’s the summer of 1987, and James Brennan (Jesse Eisenberg), an uptight, recent college grad, can’t wait to embark on his dream tour of Europe. But when his parents announce they can no longer subsidize his trip, James has little choice but to take a lowly job at a local amusement park. Forget about German beer, world-famous museums, and cute French girls—James’ summer will now be populated by belligerent dads, stuffed pandas, and screaming kids high on cotton candy. Lucky for James, what should be his worst summer ever turns into quite an adventure when he discovers love in the most unlikely place. It’s here that he meets a whole cast of quirky members! There’s the uber-cool but sleazy handy man played by Ryan Reynolds, the weird looking love interest (Kristen Stewart), the weird couple that run Adventureland (Bill Hader, Kristen Wiig), and so on.
***SPOILER ALERT*** Read no further if you don’t want hints about the ending.
There was only a squint of Mottola’s ultra-funny directing style in Adventureland. There were definitely laugh-out-loud moments, I won’t deny that. But search as you might, there’s not much more to this film than a better-than-average romantic comedy. And when I say better-than-average, I mean funnier. Because really, the movie is about shitty people doing shitty things to each other in shitty places. And while Mattola (who also wrote the script) tried to sum things up at the very end by allowing the two lead people (who aren’t nice, or interesting people) to finally consummate their relationship, it’s just not satisfying. Oh, and believing Kristen Stewart could be an NYU student is a mighty big pill to swallow. In my mind, she should still be offering herself to vampires at the prom. You’ll laugh, mostly at Hader and Wiig, but Mottola lowered his own bar here. At least you can look forward to a bitchin’ 80s soundtrack.