Paul Weitz’ Admission deserves an A for effort, but trying hard isn’t nearly enough. Tina Fey and Paul Rudd star as a couple of clichés – she’s the career-oriented Princeton admissions officer who thinks her life is going smoothly, he’s the free-spirited director of an alternative high school who eschews button-down success – who bond over the high schooler (Nat Wolff) who may or may not be her biological child.
Of course this mismatched duo fall for each other. Of course her life crumbles around her; of course she picks up the pieces. Of course Lily Tomlin, as Fey’s angry feminist mom, is the best thing about the picture. (Admittedly, Tomlin was a pleasant surprise.) What’s less predictable is how much story Weitz and screenwriter Karen Croner cram into this not-terribly-funny comedy. Half an hour shorter, the 117-minute film might have felt breezy; instead, its bulk is too big for its slender legs, and the entire affair crumbles under its narrative weight.
Fey is still great fun to watch – her smart, tart delivery is, as always, waiting for a great film vehicle deserving of her innate talents. But Rudd, normally possessing splendid comic timing, is adrift in this sea of good intentions; and director Weitz – still struggling for a worthy follow-up to his marvelous 2002 adaption of Nick Hornby’s About a Boy – shows no sense of direction that could guide his cast home. If you’re weighing your options for a good weekend film, think carefully before even putting Admission on your Wait List.