Adventureland

Film
Recommended
4 out of 5 stars
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Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars
Adventureland - Bill Hader
NOT AMUSED Hader, left, wants his teen wards to get back to work.

After Superbad and several episodes of Undeclared, director Greg Mottola seems dead set on using this growing-up-is-hard-to-do parable to cement his reputation as the screen’s bard of postadolescent angst. If this self-scripted effort isn’t as consistently funny as his single-minded previous feature, Adventureland still intriguingly tweaks the horndog-comedy genre. Our hero (Eisenberg) is too self-serious and too shy to caddishly make a move; the object of his affection (Stewart) is simultaneously too worldly to pity him and too confused to break out of her own lifestyle rut. It’s a further corrective to the American Pie movies, in which everyone always scores in the end, and the quicksilver Eisenberg (more plausible as a real-world presence than Michael Cera) seems to import some of the pain he brought to The Squid and the Whale. Factor in an Apartment-style love triangle involving an overgrown prom king (Ryan Reynolds), and it’s clear that the director has something more bittersweet in mind.

Of course, Adventureland is also a foursquare laughfest, with much of the movie aiming to do for amusement parks what Caddyshack did for golf courses (first gaming-booth rule: no one wins a giant panda, ever). But what gives the movie an added edge is its feeling for place: This second-tier tourist attraction isn’t a nonstop summer party, but a mortifying way station for America’s future writers and Gogol scholars. (Any scene involving Martin Starr’s self-described “pragmatic nihilist” gets a laugh even before he speaks.) Mottola hasn’t concocted the funniest summer comedy ever, but he may have given us one of the wisest.—Ben Kenigsberg

Opens Fri.

See “Do look back” for a take on coming-of-age films

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