A sweet and slap-happy mix of indie coming-of-age drama and Judd Apatow’s scatological but heartfelt manchild comedies, Greg Mottola’s Adventureland
is a winning look at the pleasures and frustrations of dead-end jobs and teenage kicks as viewed through a filter of mid-‘80s pop culture. The underutilized and always watchable Jesse Eisenberg (The Squid and the Whale
) is a sheltered, introspective New York college grad who discovers that his parents' financial woes will not only quash his dream of a summer in Europe (to enjoy its more "sexually permissive" nations) but require a move to Pittsburgh, where he lands a job at a dilapidated amusement park. There, he’s thrown in with a motley crew of eccentrics, small-town types and a few genuine free spirits, most notably co-worker Em (Kristen Stewart), whose complicated past proves irresistible to his repressed psyche. Mottola, who directed Superbad,
and once worked in a similar park as a teen, doesn’t shy from the crude laughs that make Apatow’s features so popular, but he tempers it with a wistful tone and layered characters that hew closer to his earliest work, The Daytrippers
. Though ill-matched at first, Eisenberg and Stewart make a likable on-screen couple, and they’re well-supported by a terrific cast that includes such die-hard scene-stealers as Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig as the park’s offbeat owners, Martin Starr as a Russian lit aficionado, and Ryan Reynolds as a former town tamer, now reduced to working as the park’s handyman. A soundtrack performed by underground faves Yo La Tengo and filled with a smart mix of hip cuts (Hüsker Dü, the New York Dolls, the Replacements) and period faves (Falco’s "Rock Me Amadeus") underscores the film’s blend of tentative emotions and broad laughs. -- Paul Gaita
Teen comedy set in the 1980s, starring Jesse Eisenberg as uptight, over-educated, recent college graduate James Brennan, who is forced to take a minimum wage job at a run-down local amusement park after his father gets a pay cut and can no longer subsidise the backtracking trip to Europe James was counting on. As he struggles to deal with puking kids, angst-filled co-workers and a head-spinning romantic triangle, James gradually comes to realise that his summer job has been the perfect way to prepare for the trials and tribulations of adulthood.