Review: Admission


Paul Rudd and Tina Fey! Well, I can get excited about this movie. Those two usually show up in comedies that are good. That Tina Fey is almost always funny and that Rudd fellow, well, he knows how to pick em’. This is clearly going to be a comedy with at least some witty repertoire because those two can banter with the best of them. Time to sit back and enjoy some laughs and a little romance.

Or be bored. That’s another option.

Director: Paul Weitz
Rated: PG-13
Release Date: March 22, 2013 

It’s hard to say at what point in Admission you realize you haven’t really been laughing all that much. You see actors such as Rudd and Fey on the screen with Lilly Tomlin and other comedic legends and you think that you’ve been laughing because they’re funny people. Then you realize you’ve only been snickering here and there, and that the jokes are about as bland as the film’s oddly lackluster plot. There’s supposed to be something to this, you keep thinking, but nothing ever comes.

The plot is a weird one. Portia Norman (Fey) is a college admissions councilor at Princeton who helps decide who to let in and who to deny. She is contacted by John Pressman (Rudd) about a student named Jeremiah (Nat Wolff), who he believes should not only get into Princeton, but is also Portia’s son. Portia and John inevitably fall for each other as Portia’s well controlled life begins to fall apart and she starts unfairly pushing for Jeremiah to get into Princeton. If you’ve ever applied to college and been rejected this latter plot point, which is a dominant part of the movie, won’t be touching as it’s supposed to be, but instead infuriating. 

Who knows why Princeton even allowed their name to be plastered all over this film since it makes their admissions program look horrible, and that is just one of the aggravating factors of the film that makes it dull all around. It’s not the biggest one, though. Even a bad plot can be saved by good comedy, but Admission is strangely devoid of it. It’s not like the comedy is bad, it’s isn’t even there. At times it seems we’re supposed to simply laugh because Paul Rudd and Tina Fey are in the movie.

“Hey, look who’s here,” the film says excitedly as Rudd and Fey routinely attempt to make a stale screenplay humorous, “Why aren’t you laughing at them?”

The strange thing is if the movie had met Rudd and Fey halfway they could have easily carried it. Both of them are fantastic onscreen and when the script does give them something to work with they make it work, but it routinely gives them nothing. You can almost see the frustration on Fey’s face as she is once again asked to repeat a word multiple times because when you say something more than once it instantly becomes funny. Also instantly funny according to the film: foreign accents, old people having sex, social awkwardness and uncaring parents. It’s as if the plot points for most romantic comedies got together and decided they could be funny without all the pesky comedy parts.

The film probably could have worked a whole lot better as a straight drama or at least a darker comedy. Instead of playing up the laughs of allowing a student into school it could have twisted its plot more easily into something a bit more serious and been far more effective. Instead it slumps along in the standard rom-com, feel good way, but without actually trying. So you’ve got a non-funny comedy coupled with a cursory look at the U.S. admissions process and neither work or are entertaining.

Boredom might be the worst thing to come out of a movie. If you’re bad at least you’re feeling something toward them film and if you’re good, well, you’re good. Boredom, however, is just nothing and, contrary to Seinfeld‘s claims, a show about nothing really isn’t that interesting at all.

Matthew Razak
Matthew Razak is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Flixist. He has worked as a critic for more than a decade, reviewing and talking about movies, TV shows, and videogames. He will talk your ear off about James Bond movies, Doctor Who, Zelda, and Star Trek.