As with a lot of semi-autobiographical films, there's a certain amount of wish fulfillment at work in writer-director Greg Mottola's Adventureland. The circa-1987 amusement park setting has the feeling of an oasis, far from actual risk, but Mottola hits a nerve with authentic characters and some clever humor.

As with a lot of semi-autobiographical films, there's a certain amount of wish fulfillment at work in writer-director Greg Mottola's Adventureland. The circa-1987 amusement park setting has the feeling of an oasis, far from actual risk, but Mottola hits a nerve with authentic characters and some clever humor.

James (Jesse Eisenberg) studies literature and reads poetry for fun, and as he finds out when his parents tell him his summer trip to Europe is off, he's completely unqualified for any employment other than a job running games at Adventureland.

He befriends like-minded co-worker Joel (Martin Starr) and falls for Em (Kristen Stewart), who saves him from being stabbed over a giant panda, but their relationship is complicated by the park hottie and maintenance man Connell (Ryan Reynolds), the two worst people in which James could choose to confide.

Adventureland isn't the laugh-riot that Mottola's previous film Superbad was, but it shares the same sweet nature and it continues the filmmaker's strong work with actors. And he injects just enough '80s detail to evoke the era without overkill, including an unbeatable soundtrack of vintage alterna-rock. On the flip side, however, Mottola also uses "Rock Me Amadeus" as a torture device.