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Overall Rating
3.07

Awesome: 24.39%
Worth A Look: 19.51%
Average: 9.76%
Pretty Bad31.71%
Total Crap: 14.63%

5 reviews, 11 user ratings


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Tadpole
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by Collin Souter

"Maybe I'm just not In The Mood for a film about a non-Graduate in Manhattan"
2 stars

The way “Tadpole” sees it, intellectuals can get away with anything. They can act like jerks around the opposite sex and still be attractive. They can walk into a bar at the age of 15 and order a drink. They can clip hair off a dog, glue it onto the sides of their faces and pass it off as sideburns, and not even have anybody ask how they grew them in one day. Best of all, a 40-year old woman can have sex with a 15-year old boy and nobody will suffer any consequences. Why? The boy reads Voltaire instead of listening to Moby. Therefore, he must be better than all the rest of the spoiled teenage man-apes out there in Manhattan, right?

I don’t know about you, but I’ve just about had it with this double standard. “Tadpole” tells the story of a depressed intellectual teenage jerk who has sex with one of his father’s friends, a 40-year old chiropractor named Diane (Bebe Neuwirth). They do their best to keep it a secret from everyone. Yet, once everyone finds out, nobody seems to care. For some reason, a 40-year old woman having sex with a 15-year old boy does not seem as repugnant as a 40-year old man having sex with a 15-year old girl. I understand the sexes have been wired differently since the dawn of time, but at least in last week’s release, “Lovely and Amazing,” somebody got in trouble.

In the world of “Tadpole,” women gravitate towards boys who wax philosophical on just about everything. The sophomore teenager in question is Oscar (newcomer Aaron Stanford), a sullen elitist who comes home from a boarding school to his father’s apartment on the Upper East Side of Manhattan on Thanksgiving break. His father, Stanley (John Ritter), is now married to a heart doctor, Eve (Sigourney Weaver). Oscar has had a crush on her for a while. She’s his oblivious stepmom, so it’s okay.

One night, Oscar bumps into Diane as she walks down the street late at night. She takes him to her apartment and gives him a massage, which eventually turns into something much more. They vow to keep it a secret, but of course Oscar must tell his best friend, Charlie (Robert Iler, a.k.a. Tony Jr. from “The Sopranos”). Oscar and Charlie have pseudo-intellectual conversations about girls, the type of which you only hear in movies. Oscar claims that not everything has to do with sex, Charlie claims it does. The dialogue sounds forced and over-written.

“Tadpole” even has one of those annoying dinner scenes where Oscar and Diane have dinner with Stanley and Eve (I kept waiting for Don Knotts to show up). Diane insists that she won’t say anything about their little fling so long as she doesn’t drink. After a series of dialogue exchanges along the lines of, “You know, Oscar and I…” “…Both speak French!” (trying to shut her up), the secret comes out. Sure, the jaws drop and no one can believe it, but so what? A few scenes later, Diane and Eve have a heart to heart talk where Diane explains that if you knew a 15-year old who had a mind for philosophy, you’d have sex with him too.

Would this rationalization let “Lolita’s” Clare Quilty off the hook? How about Charlie Chaplin? Just because you have the brain power to compare your situation to Greek tragedy or French mores, that doesn’t make it okay, or even interesting. “Tadpole” finds itself very interesting indeed. It even does that annoying thing we saw before in “13 Conversations About One Thing” and “Enough,” where we have a philosophically-alert title card between scenes. Enough with that, already!

Gary Winick’s digitally shot movie does have some nicely directed moments. A tender declaration of love hits just the right note and Bebe Neuwirth has some great moments with what she’s given. Newcomer Aaron Stanford does okay, but his character comes off so unlikable, that we can’t root for him in any way, though I think that one day Stanford will play a part that truly suits him. Ritter just seems too happy to have all this potentially devastating activity happening around him.

This movie only cost a few hundred-thousand bucks to make, most of which I’m sure probably went to the actors. They also made the movie in two weeks, and it shows. The result comes to a mere 77 minutes. Why not spend a good 20 on some more character development or scenes that would better explain Diane’s actions? Why not condemn her a little more?

“Tadpole” is the kind of movie some critics love to champion simply because it cost little to make, features some great actors and has little in the way of production value. To me, it comes off as stuffy, full of itself and nothing to shout about. It features a protagonist I hope to never meet again and the movie doesn’t seem to have a real head for teen angst, at least not the way “Ghost World,” “Donnie Darko” and “Rushmore” do. As smart a movie as “Tadpole” thinks it is, it nevertheless has no idea how pompous and unsatisfying it is. To quote the famous intellectual lecher Woody Allen, “The great thing about intellectuals is that they prove you can be absolutely brilliant and still have no idea what’s going on.”

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=5743&reviewer=233
originally posted: 07/29/02 15:08:16
[printer] printer-friendly format  
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2002 Sundance Film Festival. For more in the 2002 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2002 Seattle Film Festival. For more in the 2002 Seattle Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

5/06/11 PAUL SHORTT CLEVER AND PLEASANT 3 stars
8/01/06 William Goss Smug and rarely amusing, but doesn't overstay its welcome. 3 stars
4/17/04 Michael Greenwaldt Awesome! Loved every minute of it! Standford gives a solid performance, and is cute too. 5 stars
2/14/04 Ashe Lots of fun if you like one liners and eccentricity. 4 stars
1/15/04 Betty White Neuwirth & Stanford are convicing and hilarious in this Woody Allen-like comedy. 5 stars
5/07/03 Mandy Seever Likeable characters except the chiropractor,but Oedipus complex theme never more gratuitous 3 stars
3/04/03 Jon 20 min of narrative drawn out into 70 min. 3 stars
2/14/03 Andrew Carden Hilariously Funny Film, With Oscar-Worthy Performance By Neuwirth 5 stars
1/30/03 The Quirkfetch Kid Weird and needlessly provocative -- what's it really all about? 2 stars
11/28/02 Zack W. Young Brilliant, subtle, and interesting. 5 stars
8/21/02 davebo well done DV film, an interesting watch 4 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  19-Jul-2002 (R)

UK
  N/A

Australia
  05-Dec-2002




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