On paper I don't think that there's a more likable cinematic couple. Paul Rudd is the congenial every-man who is able to expertly walk the line between slapstick and subtle comedy; Tina Fey is the hilariously quirky everyday woman who possesses perfect comedic timing. The two of them together seems like a match made in romantic comedy heaven. Sadly, even their two wonderfully fun personalities can't overcome a script that spreads itself far too thin, trying to shovel in as many varying tones as possible, which creates an ill-timed comedic experience.
The premise is simple enough. Fey plays Portia, an admissions officer at prestigious Princeton. She spends her days scouring admission applications weeding out the great and really great applicants, trying to find those that are deemed "Princeton material." It's a premise that doesn't shed a good light on such a hallowed institution. Princeton's almost unattainable ideals are mocked, criticized, and outwardly scoffed at during the entire movie. One wonders what they thought after the movie premiered.
As part of her job Portia travels the country searching for bright young minds that will do well in Princeton. That's how she meets John (Rudd), the principal of a small experimental school. John is adamant that a student of his might not only be a child prodigy, but could also happen to be Portia's long-lost son she gave up for adoption years ago. And that's where the movie veers off the tracks and never returns.
Countless story threads are thrown into the mix, offering up a convoluted mix that ends up tonally deficient by the end. There's the coming-of-age story for the kid that could be Portia's son; there's the dour side story of Portia's horrible relationship with her emotionally distant mother (Lily Tomlin); we watch Portia deal with the breakup of her longtime boyfriend; there's another subplot about John's adopted son and his need for stability, and John's need for instability; and on and on it goes. On their own, these individual strands have meaning and substance, crammed together they make the movie feel bloated and confused.
At times, 'Admission' feels like it wants to be an edgy R-rated rom-com, only it's PG-13 so it can't quite go places other movies are able to. Then there are other times when it feels like it wants to be an introspective commentary on how the world unfairly passes judgment on everyone, but those somber asides get lost in its need to always curve back in on itself for an easy joke or two. Still, other moments feels like they're from an indie movie ripped straight from the festival circuit starring big names in small roles like the recently released 'Liberal Arts.' Again, none of these aspects mesh well in the great stew of stories that is 'Admission.'
What does work are the moments Rudd and Fey have together. Their chemistry is what keeps the movie chugging along under the weight of its extraneous fluff. Rudd gives a great deadpan performance, with his patented reactions that are always able to elicit laughs. Fey is basically a toned down version of Liz Lemon from '30 Rock.' She's not nearly as neurotic, but she's still got a healthy sense of worry swirling around her.
'Admission' feels incomplete even though it's stuffed to the gills with plot threads, developing characters, and comedy. Like many college admission essays, this movie never becomes a cohesive sum of its parts.
Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
This is a Universal release. It comes in a 2-disc Blu-ray set with a 50GB Blu-ray Disc and a DVD copy. A UltraViolet Digital Copy code is included. The discs are packaged in a standard Blu-ray keepcase.
'Admission' appears like you think a newly filmed movie would appear in 1080p. Universal has put together a smooth looking high-def presentation for this brightly lit romantic comedy. The end result is a pleasantly colorful presentation free from any glaring artifacts or noticeable digital sharpening.
Detail is nicely portrayed throughout the film. Fine detail like the ridges of a corduroy jacket or the lace of a blouse is distinctly visible. Freckles, smile lines, and hair stand out clearly offering up a lifelike look and feel. The color palette is rosy and upbeat like most rom-coms. There aren't that many nighttime scenes, but when the lights go down blacks are still nice and deep. I didn't notice any banding in the shadows, which delineate perfectly.
It's a perfectly agreeable presentation without any outrageous blemishes. It'd be pretty hard to mess this one up anyway. You likely wouldn't use it as pure demo-material due to its understated manner and lack of CGI explosions, but in the end you're getting a good looking movie nonetheless.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix is just as stalwart as its video counterpart. Rarely does it swell enough to be compared to many of the bigger blockbusters, but it does its part valiantly and creates an audio environment that owners will be happy with.
Dialogue is always clear and focused on center speaker placement. There are plenty of scenes that require out-of-frame speaking on those lines of dialogue are expertly placed in the side speakers depending on which side they came from. The rear channels have some nicely ambient sound, especially when Portia visits John's school out in the woods. Birds chirping and leaves rustling give the rear speakers something to do during the front-heavy audio mix. There aren't any glaring miscues to report here either. Another solid track from Universal.
'Admission' feels far too jumbled and tonally inept to be considered a comedy that's worth your time. There is the saving grace that Rudd and Fey are in it, and most of their scenes together work, sadly the movie as a whole falls pretty flat. Audio and video are solid, but the features package is a lean one indeed. If you're still interested in seeing it, a rental might be the best route to take. I can't see many people watching it multiple times.