April 3, 2009 at 1:00 am

Tom Long: 'Adventureland' -- GRADE: B-

'Adventureland': Not just another teen movie

Jesse Eisenberg falls for Kristen Stewart in the coming-of-age movie, "Adventureland." (Miramax Pictures)

"Adventureland" is the follow-up to writer-director Gregory Mottola's huge hit "Superbad." So the natural response is to think general teen anxiety-insanity antics built around a sweet core of humanity.

Think again. It's not that "Adventureland" doesn't hit on many of the same subjects as "Superbad" -- it is a coming-of-age film, after all. But there's a lot more real angst going on here and the immature hijinks are definitely secondary.

Another big difference is that the most commanding presence on screen is not the neurotic virgin James (Jesse Eisenberg), although he is certainly the film's center. But the movie belongs to Kristen Stewart ("Twilight") in the role of conflicted love interest Em.

Eisenberg essentially channels Michael Cera's character from "Superbad," while Stewart works outside of the teen movie box, generating heat while aching with confusion.

It's a bit as if Meryl Streep had been plopped in one of the "Porky's" films. Except Mottola is consciously pushing the genre.

The basics are there. James has just graduated from college yet the only summer job he can get before grad school is at a local amusement park run by a couple of amiable goofs (Bill Hader and Kristin Wiig) whose employees are a standard if well-drawn mix of losers, geeks and hotties.

But there's also Mike (Ryan Reynolds), the slick, slightly older janitor who woos new employees with anecdotes from his would-be rock and roll life.

And there's Em, who James falls in love with. Complications follow, which are actually somewhat complicated.

Yes, you've seen much of it before, and the nervous James character is now officially a cliché. But Stewart makes you care anyway. This, folks, is an actress.

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