What would you do if you directed one of the most popular comedies to come out of the Judd Apatow crew's think tank? Greg Mottola, director of 2007's comedy hit, Superbad, decided to follow it up with Adventureland, a lighter, more romantic coming of age story that categorizes itself as a teen sex comedy, but goes above and beyond what other films in the genre have achieved.
The movie follows James (Jesse Eisenberg), a young graduate who plans on traveling all over Europe, but finds himself in a financial crisis and is forced to work at Adventureland. There he meets a beauty named Em (Kristen Stewart) and he begins to realize that his crappy job at this amusement park may end up being the best thing that ever happens to him.
I have a theory about how Adventureland will be received by the masses. Fans of Superbad will inevitably want to see this film, although I think they will be in for a rude awakening when they find out how different it is. They will be expecting a raunchy, over the top laugh fest, but that isn't the point of Adventureland. Yes, it's a teen sex comedy, but only in the most basic sense. This film isn't simply about getting laid. Characters in movies like Superbad and American Pie were worried about losing their virginity, but Adventureland focused more on what it means to fall in love. It was a refreshing change from the now stagnant sex movies we've been bombarded with over the years.
But it isn't very funny, another criticism many fans will have. The comedy duo of Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig offered up the most laughs and there are a few chuckles here and there, but by and large, the film isn't that humorous. That's not because it fails at its attempts, but rather because the movie is more story oriented. Fans of Superbad will be disappointed, but I'll take an interesting story arc and character development over a funny, but narratively weak movie any day.
One thing Adventureland does that separates itself from other recent comedies is believable dialogue. For example, while a film like I Love You Man is funnier, the dialogue never felt realistic. The spastic fluidity of the dialogue created a separation between the film and reality, which relegated it to a good time at the movies, but nothing more. Adventureland's dialogue felt authentic and made it something much more than just another comedy. I'd be willing to revisit Adventureland again, just to spend more time with these true to life characters.
Adventureland is the best comedy of the year thus far. Just keep in mind that "best" doesn't necessarily mean "funniest." The picture isn't about constant laughs like I Love You Man and Superbad, but it has something those two don't: heart. Thanks to some great performances and a solid script, you end up really caring about these characters, so even when you aren't laughing (which is relatively often), you're still engrossed in their story. Adventureland is a wonderful surprise.
Adventureland receives 4.5/5