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Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

GREG Mottola’s Adventureland is excellent proof of how a little imagination and attention to detail can go a long way in making a genre-specific film rise above the norm.

Essentially a coming-of-age tale, the film benefits from largely eschewing the usual rules of gross-out humour and outrageous set pieces in favour a more intimate, character-driven approach. It helps, too, that it’s semi-autobiographical.

Mottola, of course, is best known for Superbad (another teen comedy that kind of tore up convention), but first made a name for himself with the 1996 indie hit The Daytrippers.

Adventureland is more in keeping with the tone of that film, even though it was the success of Superbad, and his pairing with Judd Apatow, that enabled this current film to ever see the light of day. For that, we certainly have Apatow to thank.

The ’80s set film focuses on James (Jesse Eisenberg) as he is forced to take a summer job at a two-bit Pittsburgh theme park to pay his way through summer.

Once there, however, he makes a series of friendships that will change the course of his life, including a romance with fellow worker Emily (Kristen Stewart) who swiftly finds herself torn between James’ honest charm and the laidback cool of two-timing theme park lothario Mike (Ryan Reynolds).

Much of the enjoyment in watching Adventureland‘s familiar tale unfold lies in its careful attention to detail. Every character feels fully rounded, whether it’s James’ nerdy best friends, or even the theme park’s husband-and-wife management team (a role tailor-made for Bill Hader as one half of the couple).

But the central characters are really absorbing too. Eisenberg, of <>i>The Squid & The Whale fame, is perfectly cast as the naive but fast-learning James and oozes a likeable everyman quality that makes him easy to relate to and root for, while Stewart is deeply alluring as the object of his affections – albeit a flawed figure of desire.

Reynolds, meanwhile, excels as the apparently cool Mike, whose outward confidence belies another mixed up individual and, possibly, the film’s (knowingly) shallowest character. The actor gets the mix just right.

The ’80s setting, too, gives rise to clever laughs rather than milking anything too obvious, with the soundtrack a good excuse to remind people that not everything was great about that decade (especially Falco’s Amadeus).

The inevitably upbeat resolution, meanwhile, feels earned rather than obligatory, enabling viewers to depart the cinema with the right kind of feel-good glow.

Nostalgic, romantic, realistically observed and brilliantly acted, this is another coming-of-age style romantic treat that deserves to be seen.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 107mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: February 8, 2010