ADVENTURELAND — ★★★— Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Ryan Reynolds; rated R (profanity, vulgarity, drugs, violence, brief sex, slurs); in general release.
It would be easy to write off "Adventureland" as just another one of the "salty-sweet" movie comedies that were produced by Judd Apatow and his cohorts.
After all, it was directed by Greg Mottola, who helmed the Apatow production "Superbad." And it features some of the semi-regular cast members from the Apatow movies, including current "Saturday Night Live" cast members Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig.
Also, make no mistake about it — the film gets pretty raunchy at times.
All that being said, it is an appealing coming-of-age tale with a ring of truth to it. In some respects, it may remind you of the better John Hughes films — although, again, it has a slightly more R-rated flavor.
Screenwriter/director Mottola based this late-'80s comedy-drama on some of his real-life experiences. Jesse Eisenberg ("The Squid and the Whale") plays Mottola's fictional alter ego, James Brennan.
The recent high school graduate is planning to go to Columbia University in the fall — following a much-anticipated summer trip to Europe.
Unfortunately, thanks to his family's financial difficulties, he has to get a summer job instead. Worse, the only place that will take him is Adventureland, an amusement park that's run by oddball husband-and-wife team Bobby and Paulette (Hader and Wiig, hilarious as usual).
James is stuck running the park's semi-rigged "games of chance," though he's also become smitten with his alluring co-worker, Em Lewin (Kristen Stewart).
James is also getting personal and professional advice from the theme park's maintenance man: worldly, would-be musician (Ryan Reynolds), who might not be the best role model.
Mottola gradually reveals layers to this story and to these characters. And this tale has a rich assortment of them.
Eisenberg is terrific as the clearly disappointed and unmotivated James. Reynolds is equal parts charm and smarm, while Martin Starr steals scenes as James' new best pal.
And after seeing Stewart grimace her way through several other movies, her more relaxed and likable performance here comes as a relief.13 comments on this story
(She and Eisenberg have surprising chemistry, as well.)
"Adventureland" is rated R and features strong sexual language (profanity, vulgar slang terms and other suggestive talk), vulgar scatological and sexual humor (sight gags and references), drug content (marijuana) and teen drinking, mostly comic violence (fisticuffs, beatings and vehicular mayhem), a brief sex scene (implied), as well as other sexual contact, derogatory language and slurs (some based on sexual orientation). Running time: 107 minutes.