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The marketing campaign for Adventureland is an insidious plan. Miramax is selling the film as a follow-up to 2007's brilliantly raunchy, yet commercially successful Superbad. But while that film represents writer/director Greg Mottola's breakthrough hit, his latest comedy, Adventureland, is so much more than what they're having us believe. It doesn't go for the lowbrow brand of irreverent belly laughs that Superbad and its stable of Apatow raunch-com siblings so dearly covet. In fact it's really not a comedy at all. Rather, it's a sweet, heartfelt coming-of-age drama with loads of sensitivity and bigness of heart. In other words, it's better than Superbad, and associating the two is a disservice to both films.

Fresh out of college in the late ‘80s and ready to tackle graduate studies at Columbia, James (Jesse Eisenberg) learns he must get a summer job rather than take the fun-filled European vacation he had hoped for, because his father was recently downsized. Finding himself overqualified for most available summer jobs, yet not even experienced enough for manual labor (no one wants to hire a Lit major), James eventually lands a job as a carnie at a run-down Pennsylvania theme park. Little does he know that this summer will provide him with one of the most transformative experiences of his life. Something that no college education could ever provide.

AdventurelandThe clan James meets at the park is a curious assortment of goofballs, wannabes, and has-beens. From the husband-wife park owners (Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig) who immediately determine he'd be better for the games section of the park, to Joel (Martin Starr), a pop-bottled, pipe smoking loner who reveals to James how the games are rigged. There's also the sexpot tease Lisa P. (Margarita Levieva) and James's boyhood friend Frigo (Matt Bush) who both work in the rides section of the park. There's s some kind of tawdry but respected nonetheless class division that separates the kids who work in the two sections of the park... the games operators and the rides operators. It's not unlike the class division noticed between yuppie suburbanites and trailer park dwellers.

Then there's Em (Kristen Stewart), the cute girl who works the next booth over. It's not long before James falls for her cynical air and her worldly knowledge of their section of the midway. But things are more complicated than initially thought when James finds out Em is secretly seeing park maintenance guy Connell (Ryan Reynolds) who is not only married but who also carries his guitar on the job and impresses the girls with his stories of having once jammed with Lou Reed (despite the fact that he can't properly identify a Lou Reed song.)

As the plot unfolds we notice that not much really happens, yet we're instantaneously drawn in by Mottola's perfectly illustrated moments of teens doing what teens do. Their conversations feel real, their actions are natural and never seem forced or scripted. And the innocent attraction that the virginal James develops for Em reminds us all of our first love and the blossoming of our worldly existence. Similar to how we â"grew up" with junior Rolling Stone Magazine writer William Miller (played by Patrick Fugit) in Almost Famous, Eisenberg's James allows each one of us to imagine a second chance at growing up. And Stewart handles her Em with such deep and dignified composure that we root for the pair despite her numerous flaws and bouts of angst and self-disgust. The two have an electric chemistry that rivals that of any on-screen couple in the last decade or so. This could end up being Stewart's best role in her young but burgeoning career. She's that good here.

Adventureland is fueled by an ‘80s rock soundtrack that not only steeps the film in the moment, but also guides us through the â"summer of love." Whether it be with The Rolling Stones's Tops - which Mottola actually wrote into the script - or David Bowie's Modern Love, every song is lovingly selected and perfectly placed to tell Mottola's semi-biographical story.

Don't expect the raunchy comedy you've been sold on Adventureland's advertisements and trailers. Do expect one of the best films of the year thus far.

Component Grades
5 Stars
2 stars
DVD Experience
3.5 stars

DVD Details:

Screen Formats: 1.85:1

Subtitles: French; Spanish

Language and Sound: English: DTS 5.1 HD French: Dolby Digital 5.1

Other Features: Color; interactive menus; scene access; deleted scenes; making-of featurette; director's commentary; photo gallery.


Commentary: Feature-length commentary track with Motolla and star Jesse Eisenberg.


  • Making of Adventureland featurette
  • Set of commercials for the fictional Adventureland amusement park
  • A chance to choose a particular song

Deleted Scenes

Number of Discs: 1 with Keepcase Packaging