Director Greg Mottola follows up the hit Superbad as writer and director of Adventureland, a film loosely based on the time he spent working in a theme park during the 1980s. It's 1987 and James Brennan (Jesse Eisenberg) has just graduated college. He plans to go to Europe for the summer before starting grad school in the fall. However those plans are dashed when his parents tell him his father has lost his job and not only will they not be able to pay for his trip to Europe, but if he wants to go to grad school in the fall he’ll need to get a summer job.
James isn’t qualified to do much. Luckily he’s hired to work at the local amusement park, Adventureland, owned and run by Bobby and Paulette (Saturday Night Live’s Bill Hader, Kristen Wiig). They put him on games and he starts meeting Adventureland’s eclectic bunch of workers, starting with Emily (Kristen Stewart) who almost immediately saves James from being stabbed after confronting a patron who was cheating and still wanted a prize.
He also meets Joel (Martin Starr), who’s longing for more than Adventureland and uses his wit and sarcasm to stave off the boredom; and handyman Mike (Ryan Reynolds).
James almost immediately falls for Emily who, while feeling something for him, is having an affair with the married Mike. James and Emily start to hang out and James quickly reveals he’s still a virgin and Emily isn’t sure what to make of it. James must first be comfortable with himself before progressing with Emily, but as Mottola says during the commentary, it’s a coming of age/romantic comedy and there’s only so many ways that can play out.
Eisenberg is very well cast as the awkward James, who’s trying to find himself and his way in the world. Stewart is great as the girl who wants more out of life than just having an affair and being stuck in Adventureland. Starr excels as the sarcastic Joel, with Reynolds perfect as the “cool guy” everyone wants to hang out with, but isn’t as great as they all think he is.