This is a case where I wound up feeling the previews and reviews lied to me. I thought this movie would be funny and sweet, perhaps with some message about growing up. Instead it was a dull, boring slog riddled with cliches and as predictable as the sunrise.
A note after the title card states the movie takes place in 1987 (as if you couldn't figure this out from the music cues, clothes/hair fashions, and image of Reagan on the TV screen) and James (Jesse Eisenberg) is graduated from college and planning to go to Columbia for his graduate studies in journalism. He's also planning to go to Europe over the summer with his rich buddy, where he might finally get laid. And he plans to share an apartment with the same rich buddy and experience the fast life in the Big Apple.
Of course none of these plans work out. His father is essentially demoted for being a drunk, which leaves the family too strapped for cash for the trip to Europe or sending him to Columbia. (Why couldn't the rich buddy float him the cash for the Europe trip? And isn't James smart enough to get a scholarship? Apparently not.) To get money for school, James tries to get a summer job, but the only one he can get is at the two-bit theme park Adventureland, the sort of place where the games are all rigged--one cardinal rule being "no one ever wins a giant ass panda."
James is presiding over a rigged game when some customers con him and threaten to take a giant ass panda by any means necessary. He's saved by his coworker Emily (Kristen Stewart of "Twilight" fame) who is working at the park for reasons that remain unclear. She attends NYU for reasons that also remained unclear to me even after watching the movie twice. You should already know what happens: James falls in love with Emily and she in love with him. Of course their relationship is complicated by the fact she's screwing the rock n roll maintenance guy (Ryan Reynolds).
Look, if you don't know how this plays out then you haven't watched many movies. Anyway, I was bored and irritated both times I watched this. For taking place in an amusement park there's very little amusement to be had. Only the park owners (Bill Heder & Kristen Wiig) provide any sort of comic relief and that's because they're the only ones who seem to give a damn about the park.
The rest of the characters all act like they're much too good to be working at a crappy theme park. (Which they probably are, except the logical question then becomes--why are you working at a crappy theme park?) This idea worked fine in movies like "Clerks" and "Office Space" because there were enough other shenanigans provided by annoying customers and dorky bosses to make it interesting. In "Adventureland" there isn't much of that, so it focuses instead on the whiny, awkward relationships among James, Emily, and their coworkers, which wouldn't even make for a decent show on the CW. Most of their time is spent moping around and occasionally smoking weed.
I didn't like any of the characters in this movie. James is the standard bland, overly sensitive guy always whining because he's too dumb to realize the good thing right in front of him. Emily is even more bland, not to mention whiny and unpleasant. Though at least it's obvious then James and Emily deserve each other. The movie even manages to squander the presence of Ryan Reynolds by having him play it straight, instead of setting him up for some good sarcastic quips like "Waiting," "Van Wilder," or even the third "Blade" movie. So in the end it was a bunch of obnoxious snobs who think they're better than you because you have the audacity to go to the crappy theme park where they make minimum wage. Ugh, no thanks.
All of this could have been salvaged if there was some good message about growing up or any of that. Instead it goes for the formula, cliche ending. What I was left this was a movie about people I didn't care about and a message I'd seen a thousand times before in much better movies.
As I Tweeted after watching this, movies like this or the lamentable "Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist" really make me appreciate the genius of the recently-passed John Hughes. He knew how to make movies about growing up that were also fun and entertaining. You'd be much better served watching "The Breakfast Club" or "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" than this dull, third-rate imitation.
That is all.
(My score: 50/100)
(Metacritic score: 76/100)
BTW, my other Tweet about this movie is that we need to have a Bland, Overly Sensitive Guy Olympics between Michael Cera and Jesse Eisenberg. Maybe Chicago could host it since they lost the real Olympics.