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Overall Rating

Awesome: 0%
Worth A Look: 6.67%
Average: 40%
Pretty Bad46.67%
Total Crap: 6.67%

2 reviews, 3 user ratings

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by Eric Lefenfeld

"At least we still have 30 Rock...oh."
2 stars

Toeing the line between comedy and drama is never an easy task. It’s a crapshoot more often than not, but one would think Chris and Paul Weitz, who shepherded such a balance through “About A Boy” and “In Good Company,” would be more than up to the task. Unfortunately, those looking for a satisfying third entry in the unofficial Weitz Brothers Trilogy of Heartfelt Fun will need to wait until the next go-round. “Admission” is certainly strengthened by the sheer natural charm of its leads, but it’s never able to reconcile its two careening tones, veering wildly between a desire to both entertain and tug at the heartstrings, never really doing either one to much success.

Portia Nathan (Tina Fey) is on the rise at Princeton University’s elite admissions office. Her unwavering drive in nailing down only the best of the best prospects for admission has her perched to take over as director of the department. Settled down into a relationship with an English professor (Michael Sheen), everything seems on the up and up. Enter John Pressman (Paul Rudd), director of an alternative high school in New Hampshire. He’s a gadfly in her tried and true working process, asking her to take notice of a prospective student that stands outside Princeton’s rigorous admission guidelines. Pressman charms his way through her supposedly gruff exterior, and from this (as well as a potential revelation about one of those infant-shaped plot devices), Portia’s life suddenly doesn’t seem so clearly defined as it once did.

This, alone, is enough story for a straightforward comedic drama. The world of college admissions is a worthy setting for a film, a microcosm in the world of academia that has gone mostly unexplored, but Admission is never really interested in really digging into the intricacies too deeply. However, a story about a woman unexpectedly facing a bevy of new choices is still plenty ripe for exploration, but “Admission” doesn’t even offer that. Instead, every character (and supporting character) is saddled with their own little subplots that overcrowd the story and don’t add up to much in the end. Pressman comes equipped with a precocious adopted son who has grown tired of his father’s obliviousness to the fact that he just wants to have a normal childhood, free of globe-trotting do-goodery. Portia’s mother (Lily Tomlin, who tends to steal the show whenever her character pops up) is an Erica Jong-quoting, old-guard feminist who must come to terms with a cancer diagnosis and whether going through it alone is something she really wants. These are both decent enough plotlines in their own right, but there’s no need for them to be saddled onto a story that has no place for excess baggage. All it serves to do is spread the storylines so thin that none of them get a fair shake.

Tina Fey and Paul Rudd are the buoys that keep the whole thing afloat for longer than it should, but their charms can only go so far. “Harried workaholic with a secret gooey interior” is an archetype that Fey has played to various degrees in most of her roles. One can’t help but draw comparisons to Liz Lemon, the harried showrunner Fey brought to life on “30 Rock,” but Portia is more professional and less overtly goofy than that iconic character. It’s a testament to how much Fey has improved since her days slinging barbs behind the Weekend Update desk that she is able to play up those subtle differences and not completely coast on just being “Tina Fey.” This is a definite step forward for her as an actress -- it’s just a shame the script built around her has to be so limp.

Rudd’s natural charisma is ever-present, but he’s curiously muted. It’s Paul Rudd playing a “Paul Rudd-type,” all charm and smiles without any of the underlying mischievousness that usually makes him such a magnetic performer. There’s a scene towards the middle of the film where Pressman, in reference to a room at his parents’ home that is awkwardly stacked with birdcages, deadpans a line about the “dove room” as he casually waves it off with his hand. There’s a gleam in his eye in this scene, an added layer to his stock role as the well-meaning but oblivious traveler, that’s sorely lacking as he ambles his way through the rest of the film.

It’s unclear how faithful the film is to the novel on which it is based, but the final project feels haphazardly stitched together, and this is not the type of film in which one wants to see the seams. Stabs at small-scale human drama are diluted by distracting bouts of sitcom-ish humor, and both sides of the comedy-drama divide suffer.

Rudd and Fey have an undeniable chemistry with one another, and pairing them together in a film is an irresistible prospect. Even the finest ingredients, though, need a stable base on which to thrive, not the soupy hodge-podge that “Admission” provides.

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originally posted: 03/22/13 15:27:12
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User Comments

1/20/15 Rizky Ramdhona Putra this movie is BAD! 1 stars
4/09/13 Bert I was surprised. I liked this movie. 4 stars
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  22-Mar-2013 (PG-13)
  DVD: 09-Jul-2013


  DVD: 09-Jul-2013

Directed by
  Paul Weitz

Written by
  Karen Croner

  Tina Fey
  Paul Rudd
  Michael Sheen
  Wallace Shawn
  Sonya Walger
  Tina Benko
  Lily Tomlin

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