Written by: Greg Mottola
Produced by: Anne Carey, Ted Hope, Sidney Kimmel
Original release: April 3, 2009
World premiere: January 19, 2009 at the Sundance Film Festival
Running time: 107 minutes
Kristen Wiig as: Paulette
Other cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Ryan Reynolds, Bill Hader
More information at IMDb.com
A funky, self-professedly “funtastic” Pennsylvania amusement park, Adventureland appears to be the bane of recent college graduate’s James Brennan’s (Jesse Eisenberg) existence. He previously had big plans to spend the summer on a life-altering trek through Europe that would initiate him into real adult life. But when his family suffers an economic downturn in the middle of the Reagan 80s, James’ only summer trip is straight to a minimum wage job manning a game booth so existentially bankrupt, no one is even allowed to win the giant-ass stuffed panda.
Yet Adventureland isn’t quite what it seems on the surface. For behind the cloying cotton candy aroma, the grating disco songs and the near-pathological customers, there’s a whole other world of misfit friends, hidden dreams and most incredibly, after-work encounters with the alluringly sharp-tongued arcade girl, Em Lewin (Kristen Stewart). And when James discovers the hard-won courage to go to battle for Em, the result is a savagely funny yet sweetly heart-felt and unexpected encounter with “real adult life.”
Also reuniting with Mottola after Superbad are two of the film’s most recognizable stars: Saturday Night Live cast members Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig, who play Adventureland’s by-the-book managers, Bobby and Paulette, as a kind of quirkily off-kilter American Gothic. Mottola had the duo in mind for the roles ever since he was writing the screenplay, but once on the set he let Hader and Wiig do what they do best: improv and let loose. Says Hader: “The great thing about Greg is that he’ll say, ‘I think you’d be really right for this part,’ but then he lets you bring whatever you want to it, and incorporates that into the movie.” Adds Wiiig: “It was very collaborative creating these two characters because Greg really let us be involved.”
Hader and Wiig ultimately developed the dynamic of a ditzy, passive Paulette who watches an over-enthusiastic Bobby running around trying to keep Adventureland going by any means necessary. “Bobby’s the one driving everything, trying to figure it all out,” explains Hader, “while Paulette is lobbing in the craziness.” “And yet, they’re both idiots,” confirms Wiig.
For Jesse Eisenberg, working with Hader and Wiig was almost painful – in a gut-busting way “They were so funny it was nearly difficult to work with them,” he laughs. “They really provided that mix of traditional comedic elements with the film’s sense of realism.”