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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Adventureland masters teen awkwardness

    Director Greg Mottola, the modern master of teen awkwardness whose shiny head has most notably spouted “”Superbad”” and six episodes of “”Undeclared,”” got back up on his comedy grind last week with “”Adventureland.”” While trailers for the film have since made it seem like a shallow displacement of “”American Pie”” at an amusement park, “”Adventureland”” has a mix of quirky characters and post-college conflict that goes far beyond the norms of “”protagonist seeks sex””; making it one of the unexpected comedy hits of the year.

    That’s not to say there aren’t any sex-starved protagonists; James Brennan (Jesse Eisenbergð-basically a taller Michael Cera- is most certainly in need of a nookie after his girlfriend of 11 days breaks up with him at the end of college and renders him a virgin pariah. But unlike the Jason Biggs model hero, Brennan also wants love. After being forced to take a summer job at the Adventureland theme park to fund his upcoming trip to Columbia graduate school, Brennan sees fellow carnival worker Em (Kristen Stewart) as the most eligible contender to provide for his heart (and virginity). Instead of focusing on a long, unrequited courtship, the conflict of the film is located in Brennan’s artsy, romantic views on sex versus Em’s purely visceral, fleeting perspective on relationships. The majority of the film is centered in this tragicomic sexual rift, mixing the real-world conflicts of negligent parents, secret lovers and even religious stigmas with intense cynicism and vulgarity (an unavoidable convention of college flicks).

    Brennan’s sexual debacle is complemented by a diverse and hilarious supporting cast that provides “”Adventureland”” with most of its comic vigor. Martin Starr of “”Freaks and Geeks”” fame, for example, plays the tragically nerdy Joel, Brennan’s stoic buddy who attempts to woo women with Russian literature and talk of his “”pragmatic nihilism;”” comic mainstay Bill Hader dons a fabulous 80s ‘stache as park manager, Bobby, unafraid to take a metal baseball bat to loud-mouth punks that threaten his employees; Ryan Reynolds breaks form by playing Mike Connell, the coolest self-deluding rockstar/maintenance man ever to turn his mother’s basement into a clandestine love shack; even Kristen Stewart’s nuanced performance as the emotionally-troubled Em redeems the one-trick show she put on in Twilight, proving she is an actress of substance who can be more than just horny and incredulous.

    The overarching love story and cynical carnie humor make Adventureland a veritable Nick and Norah for the bitter and disenchanted – the most relatable and mature young-adult sex comedy to hit the screens in years. Though it does have its share of clichés (especially the predictable conclusion), Adventureland is a rare gem in a sea of movie mediocrity.

    Rating: **** 1/2

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