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With: Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Ryan Reynolds, Bill Hader, Kristen Wiig, Margarita Levieva, Martin Starr, Paige Howard, Jack Gilpin, Wendie Malick, Matt Bush, Michael Zegen
Written by: Greg Mottola
Directed by: Greg Mottola
MPAA Rating: R for language, drug use and sexual references
Running Time: 107
Date: 01/18/2009

Adventureland (2009)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Theme Songs

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Just like last year's Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, here's another movie that somehow understands young people in America, rather than pandering to them. Part of who they are is the music they listen to, and Adventureland immediately establishes them as soulful, intense, thoughtful and a bit sad with a track from The Replacements ("Bastards of Young"), followed quickly by the Velvet Underground and Hüsker Dü.

The film takes place in the summer of 1987 in Pittsburgh, PA. James (Jesse Eisenberg) is looking forward to a trip to Europe and grad school in New York in the fall. But his father gets a demotion and suddenly all bets are off; James must stay behind and get a job at the local theme park, Adventureland. (On the plus side, his pal leaves him with a bag full of joints to help pass the time.)

There, he meets a ragtag collection of sorry souls, most of whom are in the same spot as James. He falls in love with Em (Kristen Stewart), but finds a workplace soap opera unfolding. Em occasionally sleeps with the married Connell (Ryan Reynolds), who claims to have once jammed with Lou Reed (even though he gets the names of the songs confused). And sexy, but airheaded Lisa P (Margarita Levieva) suddenly starts showing interest as well.

The heartbreak and drama unfolds in an emotionally realistic way: everybody acts with the best intentions, or at least out of personal vanity (or personal protection). At the sidelines, we have looming adulthood, with its promises of superficiality, alcoholism, disease, death and endless misery. This may be their last carefree summer, the last time that they can get stoned at work.

And, of course, since the movie comes from director Greg Mottola (Superbad), we get our share of crude jokes as well, mainly in the form of James' lowlife childhood friend Frigo (Matt Bush), who insists on the occasional crotch punch.

But the film's main concern is the characters, and they're a genuinely tarnished, genuinely appealing bunch. I once spent a summer not unlike this one, and it feels as if Mottola did as well.

DVD Details: Miramax's very good DVD comes with a 16-minute making-of featurette, deleted scenes with optional commentary and trailers. Director Mottola and actor Eisenberg provide a funny feature commentary track. Just to be clear, the box contains the word "unrated" splashed across the front, but that refers to the special features, and not film itself.

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