STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Whatever the economic problems, American movie theaters have not yet had to improvise for a living, as some did during the Great Depression when they bartered for tickets with people who had no money. Hollywood has, however, made the effort of releasing a feel-good summer romance in April. That's a film called "Adventureland." Los Angeles Times and MORNING EDITION film critic Kenneth Turan has a review.

KENNETH TURAN: Writer-director Greg Mottola doesn't reinvent the wheel with "Adventureland," his engaging coming-of-age story. He shows us what the wheel looks like when it's custom-made. Character and dialogue are more important to "Adventureland's" success than its plot. We can see where this story is headed, but that doesn't get in the way of the pleasure.

The year is 1987, and Adventureland Park is the kind of place where the rides cause nausea and the games of chance are rigged.

(Soundbite of movie, "Adventureland")

Unidentified Man #1: Okay, rules: no freebies, no free turns your friends, no free upgrades, no free food…

Unidentified Man #2: So just, nothing is free here.

Unidentified Man #1: Uh, everybody has to pay for everything. And more importantly, working in games, no one ever wins a giant panda.

Unidentified Woman: We don't have that many left.

Unidentified Man #1: Cool.

TURAN: This is not where James expected to spend the summer before graduate school. But his father's financial reverses mandate summer employment, and Adventureland is a place where anyone who can walk or chew gum can get a job.

(Soundbite of movie, "Adventureland")

Unidentified Man #2: James, am I pronouncing that right? James?

Mr. JESSE EISENBERG (Actor, Acting as James): James, yeah.

Unidentified Man #1: Okay, by accepting this t-shirt, you are…

Unidentified Woman: …hired.

Unidentified Man #1: Well, usually they - it's more of a ceremonial thing.

TURAN: James, played by Jesse Eisenberg, is not the Adventureland type. He's an awkward, brainy guy who reads poetry for pleasure and has idealistically remained pure because he wants sex and love to go together.

He couldn't be more different from coworker Em — played by "Twilight's" Kristin Stewart. She's beautiful, enigmatic and very experienced.

Em and James are not obvious soul mates, but "Adventureland's" strength is that it makes you believe in the yearning romantic potential these two see in each other.

Stewart brings so much intensity to her part that she turns this nominally guy-centric venture on its head. She makes Em's problems much more compelling than James's uncomplicated desires.

Filmmaker Mottola had a big success with his previous "Superbad," and it's heartening that he didn't follow it up with "Super-even-badder." He returned instead to "Adventureland," and made it the kind of adventure we could all use more of.

INSKEEP: Kenneth Turan reviews movies for MORNING EDITION and the Los Angeles Times. And we review movies at npr.org.

Copyright © 2009 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.