Writer-director Greg Mottola was the man behind the hit Superbad (2007). That film starred Michael Cera with whom Mottola previously worked on the comedy series Arrested Development. There's talk that Mottola had intended for Cera to star in this film but had to settle for Jesse Eisenberg instead.
From the way Eisenberg behaves, the way his character is written, it's clear that this part was tailored for Cera whose brand of playing young, socially awkward teenagers is now his signature. Though Eisenberg is a very capable actor, there's part of me that agrees with other reviewers that Cera would have done a better job here.
Adventureland is an amusement park in Pennsylvania where Eisenberg's character James goes to work after his parents inform him that they don't have enough money to pay for his summer trip nor his Columbia University education. While he's at Adventureland, he falls for Emily, played by Kristen Stewart, but Emily has a secret that could derail the relationship.
The problem is that this romantic comedy is hardly neither romantic nor comedic. Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig from Saturday Night Live add a little comic relief but it's not enough. They play the owners of Adventureland. Hader's character is all about taking the park seriously, too seriously, while Wiig is abnormally laid back and detached. I would have preferred a movie centered on them, but they're just sketches put here to eat a little of the boredom that fills most of this film.
The film is set in the 1980s. We know this because of the occasional, puffy hairstyles and music references like Shannon's "Let the Music Play." It was the decade where teen romances by John Hughes ruled, but this film fails a little short of Hughes' handiwork.
Yes, it's nice to see James, the virginal, hopeless romantic who reads Shakespearean sonnets, hook up with Emily's sexily, jaded, cool nature, but this story doesn't do enough to make me care about these kids.
As some reviewers have said, Stewart proves that she's a better actress here than what was proven in her role in Twilight (2008). Mottola gives her slightly better material. However, the way it all plays out in the end is rather predictable, which could be argued of most romantic comedies but this one made me care even less for its characters. Yes, James learns about her secret. Yes, it breaks them up. Yes, at the final frame, there's the big makeup, but I was yawning the whole way.
There was the occasional poking fun at the horny nature of boys. There was the occasional marijuana joke, but none of it made me laugh. If you want to see two better and funnier films starring Jesse Eisenberg, check out Roger Dodger (2002) and The Squid and the Whale (2005).
Two Stars out of Five
Rated R for language, drug use and sexual references
Running Time: 1 hr. and 47 mins.