Life: It’s not just a job, it’s an adventure. Especially when you’re stuck in "Adventureland."

But don’t be fooled by "Adventureland’s" advertising campaign, which makes it look like the second coming of "Superbad."

Yes, Greg Mottola directed both movies. Both feature projectile vomiting, copious cannabis use, raging hormones and other teen-movie trademarks.

But in "Adventureland," they’re not the whole meal deal. They’re merely condiments, there to spice up a more substantial cinematic repast.

It’s made from familiar ingredients, to be sure — the main course being an all-time favorite, the endless and inescapable trauma of coming of age.

Yet, when it’s well prepared, as it is in "Adventureland," it still proves a satisfying experience.

For those of us in the audience, anyway.

For "Adventureland" protagonist James Brennan, not so much.

It’s 1987, the twilight of the Reagan years, and James (played by "The Squid and the Whale’s" Jesse Eisenberg) has just discovered that, due to suddenly strained family finances, he won’t be spending his post-collegiate summer touring Europe with a rich classmate as planned.

Instead, he’s headed home to Pittsburgh and an awkward return to life under the same roof as his parents (Wendie Malick, Jack Gilpin), who just can’t help treating him like he’s still a teenager.

Try as he might, James can’t find any opportunities to act like an adult — at either the personal or professional level.

Which leaves Adventureland.

A local amusement park that’s been there since the dawn of time — and looks like it hasn’t been refurbished since — Adventureland looms as James’ last chance for a summer job — and, therefore, his only chance to earn money for grad school in New York.

It also might be his best chance to find a cure for his romantic problems — especially when he’s assigned to run midway games alongside Em Lewin ("Twilight’s" Kristen Stewart), a sardonic tomboy with more than a few issues of her own.

Em may be the most memorable character James encounters at Adventureland, but she’s hardly the only one.

From studious Joel (Martin Starr) to babelicious bombshell Lisa P. (Margarita Levieva), the park positively overflows with the quirky likes of Frigo (Matt Bush), an arrested-development case of alarming proportions. To say nothing of gung-ho owner Bobby ("Saturday Night Live’s" Bill Hader), his dim-bulb wife and colleague Paulette ("SNL" colleague Kristen Wiig) and hunky handyman Mike Connell (Ryan Reynolds), an aspiring rocker who, legend has it, once jammed with the even more legendary Lou Reed.

Mottola reportedly based "Adventureland’s" script on his own experiences at a Long Island amusement park of the same name. (In "Adventureland," Pittsburgh’s historic Kennywood plays the title role.)

And while the movie’s set in the late ’80s, with period-specific details to match — from the beat-up Plymouths and Chevys and AMC Pacers on the road to Falco’s ubiquitous "Rock Me Amadeus" booming from the park’s loudspeakers — much of "Adventureland" feels like a throwback to an earlier time.

In part, that’s because the movie’s Pennsylvania setting feels as though time has passed it by — not only Adventureland but the Rust Belt suburbs surrounding it.

The same applies to the movie’s in-transition characters — no longer teens, not yet full-fledged adults — who struggle, and fail, to fit in wherever they find themselves. If they can find themselves at all, that is.

As for finding each other, that’s a different struggle — an emotional one Mottola captures in painfully accurate yet ruefully affectionate detail, thanks to more than a little help from Eisenberg and Stewart.

Stewart continues a string of strong performances (that includes "Into the Wild" as well as "Twilight"), creating a character whose sharp edges (and sharp tongue) can’t quite disguise her soft heart.

And, as our guide through the "Adventureland" wilderness, Eisenberg’s James brings understated yet unmistakable humor to the hardly laughable subject of life’s mysteries, and miseries. He can’t help being smart and he can’t help being sensitive — and, as he eventually discovers, that’s not as much of a problem as he thinks.

He might have figured that out even if he had never set foot in Adventureland. But, as the movie demonstrates, he wouldn’t have had so much fun along the way.

Contact movie critic Carol Cling at ccling@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0272.

Tim Burton's imaginative artwork coming to Las Vegas
Tim Burton's imaginative artwork coming to Las Vegas (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Holiday poultry with Tim and Chemaine Jensen of Village Meat & Wine
Tim and Chemaine Jensen of Village Meat & Wine explain the different types of poultry available for the holidays. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Spring Preserve kicks off its Holiday Express
Springs Preserve hosts its Holiday Express, which includes a train ride, visits with Santa, SNOW, and a village winter wonderland.
Artists from Cirque du Soleil contribute art to Las Vegas art exhibit
Artists from Cirque du Soleil contribute art to Las Vegas gallery exhibit
Red Plate on the Las Vegas Strip serves a cocktail made with blooming jasmine tea
Red Plate on the Las Vegas Strip serves a cocktail made with jasmine tea
Benny the Ice Skating Dog
Benny is a Las Vegas Labrador who was rescued by former pro skater Cheryl Del Sanyo, and trained to ice skate. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Nevada State Museum
The Nevada State Museum of Las Vegas, located at the Springs Preserve, covers all eras of the state, from prehistoric to today.
Throw a better dinner party
Cash appears at Baseball Winter Meetings
Lights FC mascot Cash plays the electronic drums at the EZ Inflatables’ booth on Tuesday at the Baseball Winter Meetings trade show at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino.
5 albums to soundtrack your holiday gatherings in style
1. Various Artists, “Holidays Rule," with Rufus Wainwright, The Shins, Calexico and more. 2. Various Artists, “We Wish You a Metal Xmas and a Headbanging New Year," with Lemmy Kilmister, Alice Cooper, Chuck Billy and others. 3. Various Artists, “Christmas on Death Row," featuring Snoop Dogg and Nate Dogg to name but a few. 4. Bright Eyes, “A Christmas Album.” 5. Various Artists, "The Motown Christmas Album." (Jason Bracelin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Inside the kitchen at Springs Preserve
The staff of Divine Events do party preparation in the kitchen at Divine Cafe at Springs Preserve. With nine parties the following day, this is a particularly busy time for the crew. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
WinterFest in Henderson.
Miss Rodeo America Fashion Show
The 28 women contestants of Miss Rodeo America compete in a fashion show at the Tropicana on Dec. 7, 2018.
Tournament Of Kings Holiday Show
Wizards and warriors are ready for the holidays at Excalibur's Tournament of Kings Holiday Dinner Show.
Take a dive with the Silverton mermaids
A visit to the Silverton Casino Hotel is not complete without taking in the popular, and very unique, mermaid show.
Cowboys and western aficionados can buy virtually anything at Cowboy Christmas
Vegas Golden Knights Christmas Display
In the Las Vegas Valley, the chances of getting a white Christmas are slim. But this year, you can have a “Knight” Christmas. A Henderson resident has a Christmas lights display that is synchronized to the entrance music for the Golden Knights. GG Misa’s Knights light show is played every 30 minutes from 5 to 10 nightly. His light show consists of two songs: Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You” and the entrance music, “Le Castle Vania,” from the movie “John Wick.” The display is located at 730 Bollons Island St. (Richard Brian/Las Vegas Reivew-Journal)
Holiday Hooch At El Cortez is Just in Time For Repeal Day And Christmas
Holiday Hooch At El Cortez Is Just In Time For Repeal Day And Christmas. Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal
TV's LGBT superheroes
Green Valley Ranch's Winter's Village
The Mob Museum
Best Friend Menu Reveal Wednesday
Chef Roy Choi tells us what to expect from Wednesday’s Facebook Live Menu Reveal for his new Park MGM restaurant Best Friend. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Quick Chat With Criss Angel
James D. Gish and Susan Anton rehearse
Susan Anton will be special guest at James D. Gish’s holiday concerts Dec. 7 at Summerlin Library and Dec. 9 at Clark County Library. (John Przybys/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bellagio Winter Wonderland
"Majestic Holiday Magic" at the Bellagio Conservatory.
Underwater Santa At The Silverton
Santa takes a dive Sunday, December 2, at the Silverton Casino Hotel. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Cowabunga Bay Christmas Town
Las Vegas Natural History Museum
Las Vegas Natural History Museum, which opened in 1991, has exhibits of mechanical dinosaurs and taxidermied animals, along with live snakes, fish and sharks. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Magical Forest Lights
Cirque Du Soleil Performers Team Up For New Show "Kinekt"
Through dance, acrobatics and aerial arts, “Kinekt” tells a story all too familiar to modern families: how to maintain a human connection in the digital age. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
News Headlines
Local Spotlight
Home Front Page Footer Listing
You May Like

You May Like