Director Greg Mottola's latest movie has more in common with his Daytrippers (one of my all-time faves) than his more recent -- and more well-known -- Superbad.
Low on gross-out comedy, but heavy on teen angst, Adventureland follows recent college grad James Brennan (Jesse Eisenberg of The Squid and The Whale) during the course of his dreadful summer job at a local amusement park. A child of privilege, James was to have spent the summer in Europe before his father's demotion led to a sudden need for James to earn his own money for the first time in his young life. Since the characters who run the rickety amusement park (Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig) need nothing more than a warm body to man a games booth, James is hired on the spot. At what passes for an interview, they're unimpressed by his good grades and SAT scores.
There's humiliation, self-doubt and self-loathing, as you'd expect in a coming-of-age story. But, there's a lot more heart than we're used to seeing in this genre, too. Kristen Stewart is the lovely, woeful Emily -- a worthy love interest for our sweet, intellectual protagonist. She shares with him the pain over her mother's death and her father's remarriage to a bimbo. But, she hides a secret that keeps her from getting closer to James.
Thanks to a bitchin' soundtrack and lots of big hair, Mottola perfectly captures the look and sounds of the '80s. The laughs may not come at a fast pace, but this movie's heart makes up for a lack of chuckles. This is a chaste love story with believable, mostly likable characters that sweetly and painfully calls forth all the electronica and overly made-up drama of being a teen in the '80s. See it.