The first surprising thing about Adventureland is that it's not really funny at all. The idea of a bunch of aimless, horny twentysomethings working at a crappy amusement park in the 1980s seems tailor-made for an Apatovian sex romp. But the second surprising thing about Adventureland is that, even though it's the story of a disillusioned college-age schlub named James (Jesse Eisenberg, cute and earnest) trying to lose his virginity, it turns out to be a genuinely moving, bittersweet film about characters who actually seem like real people instead of comedy clichés.
It helps that director Greg Mottola, working from his own script, is able to get the most out of his cast. Even Ryan Reynolds, as a sexy handyman who just can't seem to grow up and stop scoring with barely-post-high-school girls, shows a depth that usually escapes him. But the best of the bunch is Kristen Stewart who—I can't believe I'm about to write this—between her work here and in Twilight, is actually shaping up to be one of the best Hollywood actresses of her generation. As Em, Stewart is impressive: She's not just your typical adoring date-movie lead, and neither is she the dramatic lost girl who airily floats along to a tragic end. She's a popular girl who makes mistakes and has the strength and smarts to understand she can do better.
The humor tends more toward dry observations about rubes who can't stop playing cheesy, obviously rigged sideshow games ("I'm pretty sure that 40 percent of these fish are dead," someone says while eyeing the goldfish toss). But that's okay; we can save the laugh-out-loud moments for whatever garish Will Ferrell spectacle is coming down the pike this summer. What we get instead is just about perfect for spring: a light romance about young love between two confused kids about to jump blindly into the real world.