A recent college graduate returns to his hometown, and ends up having to work at a local amusement park called ‘Adventureland.’
The film comes to us from director Greg Mottola, of Superbad fame. Anyone going into this movie expecting Superbad Part Deux is going to be sorely disappointed, but that hardly means this movie isn’t good, because it’s a quality film with a lot to say, and it says it in an enjoyable and entertaining manner. It’s just not full of belly-laughs like Mottola’s last film.
Jesse Eisenberg plays James, the recent college grad who returns home and begins looking for a job, and realizes he has no real world experience from which to pull a job, and his degree does him no favors. He eventually settles on the theme park, after he’s exhausted every other option.
Eisenberg plays the role with a great deal of restraint, and anyone familiar with his work in ‘The Squid and the Whale’ wouldn’t be surprised. He’s a very calm actor, one who makes surprising decisions, and isn’t obvious in method or approach. Here, he plays a character both relatable and enjoyable. Sure, his character is a bit bland, but he’s supposed to be. He isn’t supposed to be a heartthrob. He’s supposed to be just like you.
The supporting cast is filled with recognizable names like Ryan Reynolds and Bill Hader, two great reasons to see the film. Reynolds is very versatile, though most people will think he always plays some version of the same asshole, I would disagree. Here, he plays a man who works at the amusement park and is sort of a legend around those parts, as he’s both attractive and a musician. However, as the film develops, you realize how sad his life actually is; cheating on his wife, lying about accomplishments. But somehow Reynolds still pulls you in and sort of makes you like him, even when you know you shouldn’t.
The laughs come mostly from Bill Hader, and he’s great as the park manager. He has some funny one liners, and if anyone quotes this movie, odds are it’s something he says.
But as the film develops, it never fully evolves into what it wants to become. It seems to want to be cut from the same cloth as ‘Dazed and Confused’, and it’s a supremely different movie. That was a film about people enjoying life and having a good time. This is a film about people not really liking where they are in life, and wanting a little bit more but not being able to reach it.
The dialogue is smart, and down to earth. The music in the film is energetic and fun. The only real problem with the movie is that it’s a bit overlong for the subject matter. Instead of being upfront, it dances around subjects to a bit too long, never pushing the envelope and never really clicking on all cylinders like it easily could have, given the cast.
I quite enjoyed the movie, and thought it was good while being funny and real at the same time. Eisenberg delivers a solid performance in the lead role, and seeing as how I’m in a slightly similar situation after graduating (under-employed), I could relate. There were flashes of brilliance, and then moments of stagnation. I felt the film could have been a little bit more aerodynamic, and had Mottola trimmed some of the fat, I think it would have been an even better movie.
Score: 7.5 (Okay)