Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway
A little "Admission" goes a long way. What at first seems a promising indie comedy with comedians Tina Fey and Paul Rudd, gradually drifts into the red.
We have a comedy here that starts attractively enough and fits as comfortably as a professor's tweed coat. The trouble is the story is patchy in tone.
Unfortunately, the story tries too hard and audits the novel path.
Tina Fey plays Portia Nathan, a glib and overworked admissions officer. Granted the setting is Princeton University, but as Fey is as chirpy and clipped as ever with a closeted quirkiness, the academia of New Jersey seems right across the street from 30 Rock.
No big acting commute here.
Paul Rudd is John Pressman who runs an alternative high school . I suppose this is true but often he seems like he's just hanging out like one of the boys. We never see him working, although we do see him delivering a calf, as uninteresting as this is on screen. Rudd plays it safe here, portraying a gentle, flustered but easy-going soul yet again as he has in many outings. This will give many movie-goers the warm fuzzies. Birkenstocks not included.
But I'll say this, Rudd gives genuine empathy to the easily digested role. John approaches Portia to possibly get a student, the brilliant but manic Jeremiah (Nat Wolf) to apply to the Ivy League school and an attraction develops. Portia is shackled to a self important drip of a professor Mark, played anemically by the terrific actor Michael Sheen.
Mark breaks up with Portia with some belittling patronization and the self deprecating kind John moves in closer and closer.
On the surface "Admissions" is fine and easy to admit on the eyes, but the story merely stays on that surface of a thin veneer and seldom goes into thicker territory. There is a subplot with the possibility of Jeremiah being Portia's lost son and this is initially compelling. Nat Wolf's Jeremiah is quite funny and entertaining as he earnestly jokes, going through his wealth of existentialism, and he has the aura of a loner which makes for some engaging pathos. This is true also of young Travaris Spears as Nelson, John's adopted son, who portrays an easy sense of wonder as a boy who actually wants to be bourgeoise and boring.
But these two story lines drift about and the film becomes cluttered by sitcom-style jokes. Tina Fey is hung over, flustered and bitchy over her demise of her relationship with a "DENY" stamp on her puffy cheek but none of it is that funny. Wallace Shawn plays a conventional curmudgeonly academic (again) and the iconic Lily Tomlin fulfills the standard New Age older Mom role that appears all too often in these comedies.
The real humor comes from Nat Wolf and Tavaris Spears with solid energy coming from Paul Rudd. But the pulse of the film dissipates into Rom-com situation comedy stuffing with the same miscommunications and apologies that we have seen before.
I'd like to put Tina Fey on the waiting list because I like her charismatic sparkle, but in this film, I have to say "admission denied"..
Write Ian at firstname.lastname@example.org