Adventureland (R) ★★★☆

Ah…Yes, the 80’s

Adventureland is a romantic comedy with a summer setting of 1987 centering on a college grad’s experience working at a local amusement park named none other than: Adventureland.  The story is written and directed by Greg Mottola who also directed the hit film “Superbad”.  It’s based on Mottola’s experiences as a college grad and his time working at a similar theme park. The rides are comparable to the ones that roll into towns for those summer festivals.

James, Jesse Eisenberg from “The Squid and the Whale,” stars as the college grad who needs a job due to a change in his families’ economic situation. Instead of backpacking through Europe, he spends his summer working at Adventureland passing out fuzzy stuffed animals to kids and unruly adults. Little does James realize that this job is going to become the adventure of a lifetime. Not only does he learn about himself, he discovers new friends and experiences.

Kristen Stewart of Twilight fame co-stars as Em. She’s a fellow worker who shows Eisenberg the ropes and becomes his love interest. She’s secretly involved with one of the older workers; Mike Connell, Ryan Reynolds. James and the rest of the park staff have no idea about their clandestine meetings.

Saturday Night Live fans will recognize Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig as the quirky park owners. They are perfect in this film and play off of each other with great comedic timing. Hader dons a crazy mustache and of course Wiig has the big 80s hair. They try and console James at times but circumstances as they are seem to be useless. The bottom line is that they all work at a rundown amusement park and there’s not much that can be done about that.

Adventureland is an enjoyable movie, especially if you are a fan of the 80’s. The big hair, faded high rise jeans, big jewelry and great soundtrack are all present. The film reminded me of Cameron Crowe’s movie, “Almost Famous” but with quite the contradictory job. We’re talking Rolling Stone rock band reporter vs carney games worker. Both films also deal with the ‘coming of age’ theme.

Jesse Eisenberg’s performance is great to watch and he’s almost in every scene. He learns the rules on the first day and his instructions are clear “Never, give anything away!”And “Never give away any of the Big Panda’s!” The 80’s soundtrack is fun and helps the theme along. The tender scenes aren’t rushed, they linger which is enjoyable.

Of course there’s the hot girl at work who is a ‘Madonna look alike’ named Lisa P.,Margarita Levieva. She just can’t help herself as she starts dancing whenever she hears the loud ride music no matter where she is.

The film is a relaxing fun ride down memory lane of the 80s. And, if you ever wondered if those carney games are rigged? Well…most secrets are told in this film—and are they ever comical.

Basically it’s a coming of age film as Jesse discovers that his embarrassing ‘carney’ job turns one to be better than anything he could have ever imagined.

Sarah Adamson © 2009