"Adventureland" a collegiate must-see

“Adventureland” takes place in the summer of 1987, and James Brennan (Jesse Eisenberg) has just graduated from college. James is ready to go on a tour of Europe with a friend when his parents break the news that his father has been demoted and they won’t be able to pay for the trip. Just when he thinks it can’t get any worse, they tell him he’ll have to get a summer job to pay for grad school at Columbia in the fall.

When James’ job search yields disappointing results, he is left with no choice but to work at Adventureland, a local amusement park. There, with a cast of quirky coworkers, James waits for summer to end. Everything changes, though, when he starts hanging out with another games employee named Emily (“Twilight”’s Kristen Stewart), who turns his worst summer ever into a life-changing experience.

“Adventureland” is chock-full of hilarious running gags and quirky characters galore. It’s hard not to laugh at James’ punchy friend, Frido (Matt Bush), ‘80s stereotype, Lisa P. (Margarita Levieva), and dorky games employee, Joel (Martin Starr).

The funniest characters by far are Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig’s Bobby and Paulette, Adventureland’s eccentric owners. The “Saturday Night Live” cast members get all the biggest laughs simply by being so very strange. Everything they do, from the googly-eyed bananas to Hader’s ridiculous moustache, stands out like comedy gold.

The acting in “Adventureland” is what really makes the movie work, though. Eisenberg brings an awkward, realistic sort of lovability to his role as James that is rarely found in college-age film characters. Starr, by being funny, sad, and honest all at once, makes Joel more than just the standard loser character in a movie. Even Ryan Reynolds gets a turn at some drama as the park’s adulterous janitor, Mike.

But the real star of “Adventureland” is Kristen Stewart. It’s exciting to see her do so well with an edgier role than in the tween-friendly “Twilight”. She plays the captivatingly complex Emily so convincingly, it’ll be hard to leave the theater without falling in love.

“Adventureland”’s soundtrack is too good to be ignored, as well. Featuring songs by Lou Reed, David Bowie, and Husker Du, the film uses music to capture the summer of 1987 in much the same way “Dazed and Confused” used music to capture the summer of 1976. It’s rare to see licensed music used so effectively these days. Just try not to laugh too hard next time you hear ‘Rock Me, Amadeus’ on the radio.

The Verdict
: “Adventureland” is more than a run-of-the-mill comedy. Sure, the film can be downright hilarious at times. In fact, the comedy, when present, goes off without a hitch. It’s refreshing to see a movie where not a single joke falls flat.

But between jokes, “Adventureland” tells a surprisingly fleshed-out story about love, work, and life after college. Its story may not be very original, but using realistic characters and actors who can play them, “Adventureland” makes itself instantly relatable to college audiences, and is an absolute must-see for the college crowd.

3.5 stars (out of 4)

(originally written for RocLoop)

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