Capturing all at once the wistful emotions of early adulthood, the chaotic freedom of youth, and that uniquely wonderful boredom of summer, Greg Mottola's coming-of-age comedy, ADVENTURELAND, splits the difference between his commercial breakthrough, SUPERBAD, and his underrated debut, THE DAYTRIPPERS. ADVENTURELAND follows recent college grad James Brennan (Jesse Eisenberg) as he slogs his way through summer as a games attendant at a local amusement park, where he learns about the shady goings-on of the carny's world and is introduced to an assortment of weirdos, stoners, goons, and other lost souls. Among that last group is the angsty Em (Kristen Stewart), who captures James's heart despite her involvement with the park bad-boy, a rocker-turned-maintenance-man (Ryan Reynolds) who seduces women with a dubious story about jamming with Lou Reed.
Though the movie has its share of vomit scenes and erection jokes, Mottola is surprisingly restrained in his use of gross-out humor (particularly given SUPERBAD's near Shakespearean vulgarity), with much of the film's more blatant hilarity coming courtesy of Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig as the park's completely unhinged yet utterly in love managers. At its core, ADVENTURELAND is really nothing more than a coming-of-age story set in a colorful locale--the monotonous siren call to "Step right up!" compels after-work beer blasts, random make-out sessions, and drunken existential yearning. Yet what in any other film would be played for cheap laughs and easy smiles is here used to conjure the ineffable mystery of a summer romance. Through a mixture of pleasing performances, a nuanced script, and a brilliant soundtrack (featuring the Replacements, Husker Du, David Bowie, and, of course, Lou Reed), Mottola has created a bittersweet delight that will stay with the viewer long after the midway goes dark.