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Adventureland is a 2009 comedy-drama film written and directed by Greg Mottola, director of Superbad. The film stars Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Margarita Levieva, Ryan Reynolds, Martin Starr, Bill Hader, and Kristen Wiig.


It is the summer of 1987 and James Brennan (Jesse Eisenberg) has just graduated with a comparative literature major from Oberlin Collegemarker. He is looking forward to touring Europe for the summer and going to Columbia University for graduate school in journalism when his parents (Wendie Malick and Jack Gilpin) announce they won't be able to help him financially.

James looks for summer jobs, but can only find one, at Adventureland, a local amusement park in his hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvaniamarker where his childhood friend Frigo (Matt Bush), who has a habit of punching James in the testicles, works. James is hired immediately by the manager, Bobby (Bill Hader), and is assigned to the games area. He meets some of his co-workers: the dry and sarcastic Joel (Martin Starr), Bobby's wife Paulette (Kristen Wiig), Sue O'Malley (Paige Howard), Mark (Mark Miller), Lisa P. (Margarita Levieva), and the park's repairs technician Mike Connell (Ryan Reynolds), who is a part-time musician and claims to have once jammed with Lou Reed.

James meets another games worker, Emily "Em" Lewin (Kristen Stewart), after she saves him from being knifed by a disgruntled customer. She later invites him to a party at her house. During the party, Em invites him to join her in the pool. After the party ends, it's revealed that Em has been having an affair with Connell, although he is married. James goes out to a bar for a drink with Em, and while they are talking at the bar, Em is surprised to learn James is still a virgin. Connell arrives at the bar and Em wants to leave, so they go to one of Pittsburgh's three rivers close to one of the city's bridge where James kisses her. The following day, James tells Connell about his strong feelings for Em, which Connell reports to Em. Em later tells James she wants to take it slow.

The next morning, Lisa P. asks James out on a date, but only lets a few people know. After James returns from the date, he learns Em had called to tell him that she regrets having rejected his feelings on their past date. James gives Em some of his marijuana to bake pot cookies to cheer her up. After a pot-induced game-playing streak, Joel is attacked by an angry customer who learns the games are rigged. When Em steps in, the customer pushes her and James defends her by punching him in the testicles. The customer's friend starts chasing James who hides in Bobby's office whom then scares the customer off by threatening him with a baseball bat. Em tells James that she doesn't want to lose him.

Joel sees them walking together and decides to quit. James tries to talk him out of it but Joel is angry at James for dating Lisa P. when he already loves Em. James wants to be honest and tells Em about the night he went out with Lisa P. Shocked by his honesty, Em goes to Connell's house that night to end their affair. Prompted by Frigo the park's parking official tells James he saw Em and Connell doing "push-ups" in the back of Connell's car a few weeks earlier. James goes to Connell's house and sees Em leaving, having just broken up with Connell. When James confronts Em, she is so shocked to see him there that she becomes tongue-tied and does not explain; James becomes angered by the assumed betrayal, and leaves after Em calls herself an "idiot". Later, James tells Lisa P. about the affair, but asks her not to tell anyone.

Lisa P. tells her friend Kelly, and soon everybody in the park has found out and Em quits. James is heartbroken and drunkenly crashes his dad's car into a tree and passes out. The next morning, his mother wakes him up and tells him that he has to pay to fix all the damage. After getting his last paycheck, Connell tells James that he has not spoken to Em since they broke up. James doesn't have enough money to go to graduate school, but heads for New York anyway. In New York City, James waits outside Em's apartment. She's surprised to see James waiting for her and is reluctant to talk to him, feeling she has ruined everything between them. James tells her that he sees her in a different way than she sees herself, that he sees the girl who saved him from getting knifed, the girl who stood up for Joel, the girl who introduced him to psychotropic cookies, and the girl who doesn't make apologies for herself. Touched, Em brings James up to her apartment. Once there, James gets out of his wet clothes, and finds she still has an Adventureland shirt. They kiss and begin to take their clothes off as the film ends.


  • Jesse Eisenberg as James Brennan - A post-graduate student and aspiring journalist who has to get a summer job so he can afford to go to Columbia University in New York. The only job he can get is in the games at the Adventureland theme park. He is a devout listener of eighties alternative rock and an occasional stoner. Throughout his summer working in Adventureland, Brennan develops a relationship with his co-worker, Em Lewin.
  • Kristen Stewart as Emily "Em" Lewin - One of James' Adventureland co-worker and love interest. She has a troubled home life, she hates her stepmother and resents her father for remarrying so soon after her mother's death from cancer. She is a student at NYUmarker but her father is a rich lawyer and she works games in Adventureland even though she doesn't need to, mostly as a reason to get out of the house. She is secretly having an affair with the park's mechanic, Mike Connell, but eventually calls it off, and quits Adventureland after her affair becomes public knowledge.
  • Ryan Reynolds as Mike Connell - The park's mechanic, married to a woman called Ronnie. He is also a part time musician who claims to have played a gig with Lou Reed. Through slips in his musical knowledge it becomes apparent to James this is not true. Since the beginning of his marriage, he had cheated on his wife with different girls and by the beginning of the story, with Em.
  • Martin Starr as Joel - One of James' co-workers at the games in Adventureland and James' friend in the summer. A college graduate in Russian literature, a degree which he claims will get him a job as a "hot dog stand operator or a cabbie in NYC". He eventually quits the park after getting beaten up by a disgruntled customer and leaves Pittsburgh to head for an undisclosed location.
  • Matt Bush as Tommy Frigo - A former best friend of James' from their childhood. Though they aren't good friends anymore, James still manages to tolerate Frigo's immaturity and cruelty. Frigo constantly teases James and hits him in the testicles and even goes so far as to blackmail James. At the end of the story, James hits Frigo in the testicles first for once, before heading off to New York, finally getting his revenge.
  • Margarita Levieva as Lisa P. - One of the rides operators at the Adventureland park. A seductive girl whom all the park's employees are attracted to. Her father is ill and unable to work, and she bonds with James after he shows some sympathy for her. She invites James out on a date, but he leaves her to go back with Em. She eventually tells everyone at the park when James tells her that Em was having an affair with Connell.
  • Bill Hader as Bobby - The eccentric assistant manager of Adventureland. He is extremely intolerant of people who litter but is very supportive of his employees and caring for his wife.
  • Kristen Wiig as Paulette - Bobby's wife and manager of Adventureland. She is often as eccentric as her husband but is much more quiet.
  • Mary Birdsong as Francy - Em's stepmother. She married Em's father shortly after the death of Em's mother. After her first divorce she lost her hair from the stress of a nervous breakdown and wears a wig. Em says that if she were not a "status-obsessed witch," she might feel bad for her.
  • Josh Pais as "Mr. Lewin" - Em's father and Francy's Husband. He met Francy at temple while his first wife was slowly dying in the hospital. He married Francy, soon after Em's mother died.
  • Jack Gilpin as "Mr. Brennan" - James' father. He loses his job and transfered to a different office. He becomes an alcoholic soon after, which he tries to hide from his family. James finds a bottle of scotch underneath his dad's car seat, and he drinks the bottle while driving and crashes into his neighbor's tree. He doesn't tell his mother that the bottle belonged to his father.
  • Wendie Malick as "Mrs. Brennan" - James' mother. She is the one that lets James know they can't help them pay for his trip or graduate school. She supplies the discipline of the two parents.


Adventureland was filmed in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvaniamarker in 2007, with most scenes shot in Kennywoodmarker, a historic amusement park in nearby West Mifflin, Pennsylvaniamarker. The theme park from the film is based on the Farmingdale, New Yorkmarker amusement park Adventurelandmarker where Mottola once worked at in the 1980s.


The film has a much darker undertone than advertised, the trailer rather than presenting it as a coming of age love story, with comedy elements includes many jokes from the film setting up audience to expect "more goofy comedy and less of a good story". Despite liking the film, many reviewers were critical that "studio marketing has unfairly hurt the word of mouth on this little movie" and even turned the intended audience away from the film.

Movie marketing madness notes how the posters for Adventureland draw attention to director Greg Mottola's previous work Superbad. The earlier tshirt style poster including it, and the second poster making it even more prominent at the top of the poster, again suggesting a different style of comedy than the film itself.


The movie premiered at the January 2009 Sundance Film Festival. and went on general release April 3, 2009.


Adventureland has received critical praise with 89% on the review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes.

In its first week at the box office Adventureland opened moderately wide in only 1862 screens grossing 5.7 million ranking #6 at the box office. Despite opening up in fourteen more screens in its second week Adventureland only took in 3.4 million, falling to #9 at the box office. The film concluded its U.S. domestic run on May 28, 2009 with a gross of $16,044,025.

The movie was nominated for the Gotham Independent Film Awards "Best Ensemble Cast", scheduled in New York City on November 30, 2009.

Home media

The film was released on DVD and Blu-ray on August 25, 2009 with unrated bonus features.


A total of 41 songs were licensed for use in the film. The soundtrack includes 14 songs and was released on April 1, 2009. The songs included are mostly from the 1980s, to fit with the setting of the film, with several tracks from the late 1960's and early 1970's, most notably by The Velvet Underground, Lou Reed, and the New York Dolls.

Additional songs

A selection of the songs not included on the soundtrack album:

The scenes in which these songs are featured in can be found at the web site Adventureland at what-song Accessed 29 August 2009


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  4. Accessed 24 August 2009.
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  6. Adventureland on Blu-ray and DVD on

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