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Midway Crisis

“Adventureland” is a confusing mix of the tragedy and comedy that marks life right out of college.



There's an irony in the ironically hip comic drama “Adventureland” that its makers probably never intended: How can a character's life and situation really be all that tragic and still be the basis for a light, enjoyable movie?

It's a tough balancing act, and as the occasionally clever movie proves, not always possible. The movie stars Jesse Eisenberg (“The Squid and the Whale”) as James, the main attraction amid a group of thwarted theme-park workers, who washes up after college on the shores of a low-paying job with much ballyhoo but little sense. Silly premises can sometimes be overcome with consistency, something “Adventureland” loses during its rollercoaster of tones, twisting from Judd Apatow-style wryness into “SNL”-style goof-off (Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig are the cartoonish Adventureland owners) and then down the slope of a bawdy teen farce.

As the geeky virgin bags not one but two babes (Kristen Stewart and Margarita Levieva), James' feeble romantic pursuits become all there is of a plot besides the constant background joke of the 1980s and its constellation of freaky supporting characters, which unintentionally reveals why this picture likely got made in the first place. The characters' serious emotional upheaval, pot smoking and sex having are mythologized for people who remember the '80s and the teens who don't, but who will be the ones most interested in this inoffensive and lovingly handled but ultimately futile ring-toss around the milk bottle of young adulthood. “Adventureland” is more rigged than the midway games. (R) 106 min. HHIII S


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