Adventureland

Director Greg Mottola hit a low-comic high with Superbad, which sets up a raucous promise Adventureland doesn't even want to keep. This look at college kids working in a tacky Pittsburgh amusement park in the summer of 1987 is drawn from Mottola's own life. The writer-director blends sassy and sad in the style of his 1996 debut, The Daytrippers.

Jesse Eisenberg (The Squid and the Whale) subs for Mottola as James, a pothead with an unpopped cherry and the hots for Em (Twilight's Kristen Stewart), who is sneaking off with married handyman Mike (a miscast Ryan Reynolds). Eisenberg and Stewart bring delicate emotion to their roles, but their romance is recycled from musty Hollywood inventory. Aside from the Eighties soundtrack ("Rock Me Amadeus" — yikes!), the fun comes from the delicious comic twists provided by SNL's Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig as the park owners (these two bona fide talents deserve their own movie) and Martin Starr as a Jewish brainiac who reads Gogol and sees anti-Semitism in every first date. Adventureland throws a lot at us, but not enough of it sticks.

From The Archives Issue 151: January 3, 1974