AdventurelandNot since Pan’s Labyrinth has a great movie been so poorly marketed. Well, it’s a bit harsh to say “poorly” marketed considering that Adventureland didn’t completely tank at the box office for a low budget film without any real leading star power. Perhaps “mis-marketed” is a better description. Where Pan’s Labyrinth was marketed as a fantasy film for those looking for a lighthearted and adventurous escape from reality, Adventureland was marketed as the next American Pie or Superbad (which may be a better (mis)comparison considering that Greg Mottola wrote and directed this film). The same filmgoers who were struck by the unexpected violence and darkness of Pan’s Labyrinth may have found themselves struck by the heart and realistic drama of Adventureland.

When recent college graduate James Brennan (Jesse Eisenberg – familiar to quirky drama fans who saw The Squid and the Whale) discovers that his European vacation has been canceled due to his father’s downsized job, he suddenly finds himself looking for a “real” job. Ultimately, the only job that he can land in his hometown of Pittsburgh with his unenviable lack of real-world skills is working a game booth at the kitschy theme park Adventureland, along with washed up rock stars (Ryan Reynolds) and semi-philosophical slackers (Martin Starr of “Freaks and Geeks” and Matt Bush). And though James at first sees his new job as an embarrassment and a hassle, over the course of a summer (and roughly two hours of film) he finds himself connecting with the beautiful and interesting Em (Twilight‘s Kristen Stewart) and discovering what growing up is really all about. Set with a late ’80s backdrop in a dilapidated amusement park, Adventureland is more teen angst than teen comedy, but for those willing to take the ride, this film delivers on the memorable moments.

As the couple running Adventureland, the insufferable Bill Hader along with the inimitable Kristen Wiig provide a solid backdrop of comedy in which to place James’ post-collegiate self-discoveries. Ryan Reynolds is almost too perfect as a slightly depressed maintenance man with airs of a better life surrounding him. In fact, all of the acting in this film is superb – it doesn’t hurt that the script (a semi-autobiographical presentation by director Mottola) is spot-on in the way it captures and portrays the simultaneous excitement and ennui of the first summer after graduating from college. Jesse Eisenberg portrays a slightly more masculine Michael Cera character caught in an unlikely (but believable) love triangle that ultimately provides the true dramatic heart of the film. While the marketing campaign may have led many to look forward to the next Superbad, those interested in a truly interesting film will be pleasantly surprised by the many surprises that Adventureland provides in the way of dramatic moments and ensemble cast work. Though the story ultimately comes up a bit cheesy and lacking in drive, it’s got more than enough heart to pull any audience member through to the end and leave them cheering for more.

Zach’s Rating: B+
Perfect For: Fans of Superbad looking for a more heartfelt film
Stay Away if: You’re looking for a slapstick teen comedy

To purchase Adventureland, visit Amazon

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