Admission Neither Romantic nor Comedic

Admission Neither Romantic nor Comedic

2 stars
Rated PG-13 for language and some sexual material
Available on: DVD, Blu-ray, digital download and on demand

What’s a romantic comedy to do when it is neither romantic nor comedic? When that film is “Admission,” it plunges forward drunkenly, hoping to overcome its inadequacies with goodwill created by the cast.

Thankfully for director Paul Weitz (“American Pie,” “Little Fockers”) that cast contains Tina Fey, Paul Rudd and Lily Tomlin, a group that would make a line at the post office more appealing. Alas, these three are saddled with a Karen Croner screenplay that isn’t nearly as smart as they are. Therefore, “Admission” chugs along slowly, playing more like a drama than a lightweight romance. That would be fine if the material were good enough to support the weight. It isn’t.

Fey plays Portia Nathan, star admissions officer at Princeton University, a school that is notoriously tough on its applicants. Rudd plays John Pressman, head of an experimental high school. Tomlin plays Portia’s mother, Susannah. The three meet after John convinces Portia to visit his school, largely because he wants to introduce her to Jeremiah (Nat Wolff), an unusually talented student.

Although John is a dedicated teacher, the introduction extends beyond academic norms because he has reason to believe Portia gave Jeremiah up for adoption. Portia is startled by this revelation, but decides to invest in the boy’s future nonetheless. Of course, she also forms a connection with John.

The most interesting thing about “Admission” is that Croner and Weitz spend a good amount of time looking at the college application process. Higher education is supposed to be an exciting journey, but the admission process has become ridiculously competitive and stressful. It’s nice to see a comedy address this fact. Trouble is, “Admission” doesn’t do it well.

If the screenplay were littered with solid gags, the heavy stuff would be more appealing. If Portia acted more like an actual college employee and less like a movie character, “Admission” would have heart. If the romance were better established, the project would be more coherent. That’s a lot of “ifs” for a 107-minute movie. So many, it’s impossible to grant a recommendation.

DVD and Blu-ray extras are limited to a short, making-of feature.

By Forrest Hartman

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