More evidence that young ’uns enjoy a better grade of romantic comedy than their elders (see also this month’s (500) Days Of Summer), Greg Superbad Mottola’s period piece is smartly observed, witty and well-acted, with recognisable characters we actually care about.
Think of the last time you could say the same for anything starring Sandra Bullock, Katherine Heigl or even Julia Roberts.
Admittedly, Mottola isn’t reinventing the wheel here. Adventureland is one of those ‘the summer I lost my innocence’ stories, with Jesse Eisenberg as a 22-year-old virgin quietly besotted with the altogether more worldly Em (Kristen Stewart), though she’s banging Ryan Reynolds’ hunky old-job man.
It’s 1987, and James (Eisenberg) is back home for the summer, newly fortified with a degree in Renaissance Studies, but not remotely qualified for any gainful employment in the environs of suburban Pittsburgh. Which is how he winds up at the eponymous amusement park, separating punters from their cash with the vague promise of a stuffed toy for the lucky winner.
Even in the pathetic hierarchy of Adventureland this is the lowest of the low. James does have one thing going for him though: a bag of weed. It’s enough to get his co-worker Em to take him seriously, and to attract the attention of the lovely Lisa P (Margarita Levieva)…
Eisenberg and Stewart make a sympathetically low-key couple, a kind of fresh-faced Woody and Mia, while Martin Starr slyly steals scenes as the theme park’s resident pipe-smoking intellectual.
A subtle, sensitive director, Mottola invests this unremarkable story with the care and compassion of someone who actually lived it. Don’t expect the constant cock gags of Superbad – instead, be prepared to come away reflecting on your own worst job and any romantic compensations that it might have thrown up.