Sunday, August 22, 2010

Adventureland (2009) **1/2

The best thing about seeing “Adventureland” is that I don’t have to watch any of the “Twilight” movies to find out if Kristen Stewart lives up to her hype. The answer is - not even close. She is a vaguely good-looking, minimally competent actress, and I cannot explain why she is on the cover of so many magazines. I guess Ayn Rand was right. A movie studio would rather take someone mediocre and build them up than have to control someone with real star power like an Angelina Jolie.

Aside from Kristen Stewart‘s somnambulistic performance, “Adventureland” is a moderately entertaining little movie. Jesse Eisenberg (from “Roger Dodger”) is pretty charming as James, a new college graduate whose summer and grad-school plans get derailed by his dad’s unexpected demotion at work. He takes the only job he can find in a recession, running games at a local amusement park. Martin Starr (from “Freaks and Geeks) puts in a nice performance as James’s co-worker and friend. Kristen Stewart breathes through her mouth and underwhelms as James’s love interest, while Ryan Reynolds turns in an uninspired performance as a hot, older guy.

Watching this movie, I was struck by how all these people in their early twenties seemed like they were in high school. James is still completely financially dependent on his parents, and he takes a job that is barely suitable for an 18-year-old. The depressing thing is, this is still pretty realistic. A college degree and $2.50 will pretty much get you a cup of coffee these days.

“Adventureland” misses out on the opportunity to be this generation’s “The Graduate,” which is a shame, because the setup initially seems pretty promising. Jesse Eisenberg is not a bad actor, and he does some good work here. I don’t know if he’s quite a Dustin Hoffman, however, and even if he is, I don’t know that this film ever aspired to that level. In any event, Kristen Stewart is no Katherine Ross, and Ryan Reynolds is definitely no Anne Bancroft. “Adventureland” is kind of like winning a prize at an amusement park. I wish I could pay a couple more bucks, throw a couple more balls, and trade Kristen Stewart in for a giant, stuffed panda.

2.5 stars out of 5

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