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Stars: Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Ryan Reynolds, Bill Hader, Margarita Levieva, Jack Gilpin, Wendie Malick, Kristen Wiig, Matt Bush

Director: Greg Mottola

In spite of its bad language and teenage drug-taking, you'll find this a rather mellow look at relationships and learning to deal with the curveballs life throws at you. The dialogue is closer to real life than in most teen rite-of-passage films and the characters sad, joyous and sympathetic all at once.

Principal protagonist is Brennan (Eisenberg), whose college studies are delayed when his dad (Gilpin) is forced to take a pay cut. The only solution is a summer job, and Brennan isn't qualified for anything - except working in the local funfair, Adventureland.

Assigned to Rides, rather than his preferred Games, he finds himself attracted to Em (Stewart), not knowing she's the mistress of unhappily married Connell (Reynolds), the fairground's mechanic, who has girls buzzing around him like bees on honey.

Brennan soon finds that most of the stalls are 'loaded' against the customer. "Nobody', he's warned by chief carny Bobby (Hader) 'ever wins a giant-ass panda. We pay little Malaysian kids 10 cents a day to make these things. We can't just give them away.'

Then there's Lisa P (Levieva), the carnival's resident bombshell, who amazes Brennan by asking him out on a date, complicating his relationship with Em even before he falls out with her over Connell.

There's an abundance of characters here, in fact, and most of them reveal some unexpected facets to their makeup before the end, making them more like real people. The ending itself is closer to Hollywood cliché, but not unsatisfaying all the same.

David Quinlan

USA 2008. UK Distributor: Walt Disney. Colour by deluxe.
107 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 1, Swearing 2.

Review date: 06 Sep 2009