Adventureland, Greg Mottola’s follow-up to the raucously entertaining Superbad, is not more of the same gross-out comedy; instead the film unravels as a rather more realistic interpretation of the overdone coming-of-age archetype that offers a surprisingly smooth ride throughout, thanks to a solid (if unspectacular) cast of misfit characters fuelled by angst, undesirable circumstances and, of course, pot. Based loosely on his own experience in the late 80s, Mottola’s surrogate James (Jesse Eisenberg) is forced to take any summer job he can get when his trip to Europe and upcoming position in graduate school is jeopardised by his alcoholic father’s demotion.
James is a serious, sincere individual, who, has emerged from college a virgin, mostly through a hopeless romanticism. A partially drug-induced confidence allows the awkward James to get closer to the elusive and damaged Em (Kristen Stewart, in an angsty, empathetic role filmed prior to the oh-so blue-filtered Twilight), who uses her job to escape her father and social-climbing stepmother. They are supported by a wide array of supporting characters, notably the hilarious, scene-stealing theme park owners, played by Saturday Night Live regulars Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig.
While the premise of the film delivers to an extent on the crude humour and lackadaisical work ethic expected by fans of Superbad, some may be disappointed by Mottola’s choice to instead investigate the emotional and ethical make-up of his characters as they mature through their mistakes (drawing a comparison with the quirky and underrated Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist), notably focusing on James’ insecurities and Em’s tumultuous family life.
While Adventureland’s biggest strength is its charm, it falls quite lazily into convention towards the end, as expected, while the emotions become artificial as the story regresses into a formulaic resolution. Given the intelligence and emotion of the film up to this point, this comes as a disappointment. Overall, though, Adventureland is more truthful, sharper and more enjoyable than many of its counterparts.
In a nutshell: A light, charming, refreshing redirection for a tired genre. Well worth a watch.
Released 11th September
Cast Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Bill Hader, Kristen Wiig
Director Greg Mottloa