Every couple of years a nostalgic film of note comes along allowing the previous generation to remember their glory days of old. Director Greg Mottola provides this with Adventureland, his follow up to the comedic hit Superbad. Set smack in the late ’80s, Adventureland tells the coming-of-age tale, which such movies are ought to do, of likable, Spielbergian every-boy James who schulbs along in the self-titled ma-and-pa run amusement park the summer before grad school.
Starring a pre-Social Network Jessie Eisenberg as the likable lad, Twilight‘s Kristen Stewart, getting her Indie-chops on as the girl-of-his-dreams, Ryan Reynolds as the bad boy who holds her heart, and Sam Rockwell in an Oscar-worthy performance as the unlikely mentor who equally dances, sings, and plays Ms Pac-Man poorly. Adventureland caters to the clichés of the time wrapped around a soundtrack of familiar standards, including many that normally don’t make the cinematic memory rounds. The film tells truths that most Gen-Xers either believe, lived through, or simply fall prey to that great lie of “remember the time…?” when friends, co-workers, or whoever just sorta hung out and talked.
With those truths is the likable geek James, who could very well have been written into a John Hughes movie, harshly learns that a smooth life isn’t handed out, you have to work at it and relationships aren’t as perfect as one may think. Aside from some killer New Wave music, and Cold War paranoia, the 80s proved that the nuclear family sometimes detonated, and that teenage infidelity was as rampant as Sylvester Stallone movies. Adventureland doesn’t make importance of the tearing down of the Berlin Wall, rather shows the importance of breaking walls between friends and how going on a date with the wrong girl has just as many consequences as the Iran-Contra Affair.
Greg Mottola successfully gives those that have been there a great memory and provides a laugh at times gone by for those that weren’t. By the film’s end, James needs not to crash his father’s Ferrari to gain attention but knows he’s well past his sixteenth birthday to wait and nab the girl.