Eisenberg finds a new Social Network
"Adventureland" is a teen comedy, it is about trials and tribulations, relationships, disappointment, drugs and sex but if that makes you think "American Pie" you are going to be disappointed. You see "Adventureland" is not like your normal mainstream teen comedy, it doesn't really have that feel of a series of crude gags thrown together with storyline in-between. Instead this is a teen comedy where humour springs from real situations rather than extremes, it has real people rather than caricatures and it doesn't survive on laughs alone as it has drama as well. As such it would be fair to say that on first watch "Adventureland" could disappoint but on further viewings the humour from honesty becomes stronger and stronger.
It's the summer of 87 and James Brennan (Jesse Eisenberg - The Social Network) is looking forward to seeing the sights of Europe with his buddies before heading off to an Ivy League School in NYC. Well that is until his parents suffer financial worries and instead of travelling James end up working in Adventureland, a crummy theme park. But it's not all bad as in-between all the mundane jobs James meets and falls for co-worker Em (Kristen Stewart - Twilight) but it is a relationship which will teach him a lot about life and love as well as making James realise what really matters to him.
One of the interesting things about "Adventureland" is that the storyline is stereotypical teen comedy, from James finding summer work at a grotty theme park to him falling for Em none of it is unusual. You can go even further as we have a virgin, a few quirky friends and various drink and drug related scenes. But what writer and director Greg Mottola shows is that the same ideas which fill so many teen comedies can feel different when they are approached differently.
And that is the thing about "Adventureland" it is different to what you probably expect and as such on first viewing can feel disappointing. Where in the usual teen comedy you have big set piece gags which jar with scenes around them there is none of that here, instead you have amusement from a situation be it James dealing with an angry customer or a cheating one. And where usually sex is treated in a very crude manner the sex humour in "Adventureland" is a lot more subtle and basically more natural. It's not totally natural, it is still embellished reality with a few overly quirky characters but compared to other teen comedies what is delivered here feels more like real life.
As such whilst you have plenty of humour you also have that element of real teenage issues and the complexity of relationships. And so when James falls for Em but then has a date with sexy Lisa P that conflict of doing what your proper heads says or what your little head says shows itself. There is also the humorous aspect of teenage life where no one can keep a secret as well as infuriating parents. Occasionally Mottola gets it wrong; a certain character which likes punching James in the nuts is too extreme but for the most Mottola gives us a very different teen comedy.
Now ironically "Adventureland" is set in the 80s, 1987 to be exact, yet it doesn't really feel like a movie about the 80s and in fact it could have been set now. It certainly makes a change from comedies which take up back to the 80s as there is no in your face gags about the era. But then it cleverly brings in bits such as James going mad at hearing "Amadeus" playing at the theme park over and over again and it certainly makes you smile when you think of your own experiences be it as a theme parker worker or just a visitor.
At the centre of all of this is James played by Jesse Eisenberg who to be honest is a wonderful contradiction and by that I means James is a bit of a geek, a bit nervy and Eisenberg is so confident at playing this sort of character that it does feel contradictory, confident geek. But Eisenberg makes it work, he's a thinking teenager, well read and whilst comfortable around those cooler more gregarious teens doesn't quite fit. It makes us feel for him and whilst it is obvious who he will fall for the way it happens is a nice progression. Talking of which Kristen Stewart is spot on as Em the almost rebellious teen character but not of the extreme variety more of the disenchanted with life variety. They make for a perfect couple and in keeping with the realism of everything else there is no bolt of lightening romantic spark, just real life flirtations and friendship.
What this all boils down to it that "Adventureland" is an entertaining and a different approach to the teen comedy genre. At its heart it covers exactly the same things other teen comedies cover but writer and director Greg Mottola is more realistic with humour arriving from real situations rather than orchestrated set pieces. It does feel wrong on first viewing but "Adventureland" is worth at least a second viewing to appreciate the intelligence on show.