**1/2 (out of 5)
April 3, 2009
Jesse Eisenberg as JAMES BRENNAN
Kristen Stewart as EM LEWIN
Ryan Reynolds as MIKE CONNELL
Bill Hader as BOBBY
Martin Starr as JOEL
Kristen Wiig as PAULETTE
Directed by: Greg Mottola
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
It has to be really hard to follow up a mega-hit. Jared Hess had that problem when he released “Nacho Libre” as the follow-up to the indie sensation “Napoleon Dynamite.” The challenge is to make a film that is enough like your original hit that you keep your fans interested, but to make a different enough film that you’re just not retreading the concept.
Greg Mottola has stepped into this trap with “Adventureland,” which follows the 2007 blockbuster “Superbad.” On one hand, “Adventureland” seems imitative of “Superbad,” while not being as funny on the other hand.
More of an independent coming-of-age film than a laugh-out-loud raunchy comedy, “Adventureland” follows James Brennan (Jesse Eisenberg) through his summer after graduating college. Because his father gets demoted at work, James must get a crappy summer job at a low-rent amusement park called Adventureland. However, while suffering through his terrible job, he falls in love and learns a lot about life by dealing with his co-workers.
I will admit that there are some very funny moments in “Adventureland.” There are also some very warm moments as well. However, the characters are just too dreary for me to stomach. While everyone hates their crappy summer job, they don’t do anything to move beyond it, opting to smoke pot and fail to have sex with each other during their free time.
I’m sure the film will have a certain appeal to a certain audience, namely other college-aged kids in crappy jobs struggling to learn about life and love. However, if you’ve matured beyond this point in your life, you stand the chance of just getting annoyed with the characters. Myself, for example, suffered through some horrendous jobs in my youth, but I didn’t let my friends walk all over me, nor did I piss away my summers smoking dope and drinking on the job.
To make things worse, the character of James is dealt the same unsympathetic fate as the character of Ross from “Friends.” He’s presented as a nerd – an awkward young man who isn’t good with the ladies. However, by the middle of the film, not only is he got a burgeoning relationship with the angst-filled teen rebel, but the hot girl in the park as well. Who can feel sorry for a guy like this when he can’t make a choice?
Mottola makes the mistake of trying to make this film too much like “Superbad” but not making it funny enough. He even goes as far to direct Jesse Eisenberg – a decent actor in his own right – into a performance that channels Michael Cera without the loveable nature.
Acting as Eisenberg’s foil is Kristen Stewart, who recently got a huge career boost with her role in “Twilight.” And as good of an actor as Stewart is, she’s left to wallow in her own stand-by acting ticks. Remember those scenes in “Twilight” where she stammered around her dialogue, breathing heavily at the end of every sentence. Well, that’s her performance through this entire film.
Sadly, the best parts of the film come from the supporting cast. Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig play the Adventureland bosses, and they are simply hilarious. Fortunately for the film, they pop up periodically to remind the audience that the movie is a comedy. However, I kept wishing that the rest of the film had been about them rather than these whiney, depressing, all-too-realistic-in-a-bad-way characters.