It's the summer of 1987 and recent college graduate James (Jesse Eisenberg) finds his plans for a European vacation put on hold when his father gets demoted at work. Worse yet, it looks like James' parents won't have enough money to send him to the grad school of his choice. There's only one hope: Get a job to help cover the bills. But with no work experience, the only job James can get is running rigged games of chance at an amusement park. It's a crappy job, but at least James hits it off with cute coworker Em (Kristen Stewart), and the two start to date.
But not so fast. Things are actually kinda complicated. Em is also carrying on an affair with married maintenance man Mike (Ryan Reynolds), while James finds it hard to resist the charms of another park employee, Lisa P. (Margarita Levieva).
Writer-director Greg Mottola, whose previous movie was the teen sex comedy with a heart, Superbad, should have made this film into something fresh and funny. That it's not is all the more surprising considering the screenplay is based on Mottola's own experiences. If you've only ever been to a carnival or amusement park for a day, you know the people who work there have to be more interesting and their jobs more eventful than the bland characters and situations we're shown here.
Rather than really explore its carnie milieu, Adventureland wastes most of its time with a tired "coming of age" plot and romantic-comedy clichés. While Reynolds' character isn't portrayed as a complete asshole the way he would be in most films, that's about as daring as the movie gets. Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig occasionally breathe some life into the film as the park owners, but if you've seen the trailer, you've already seen most of their contributions. It's not that Adventureland is terrible; it's just that it's utterly predictable and unoriginal.