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Not quite worth the price of Admission'

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College-bound comedy can't make up its mind

As someone who goes to the movies with regularity, I have grown accustomed to a certain level of misdirection when it comes to movie trailers. Trailers are one of the primary ways to get your movie onto the radar of the general population. So of course, you want to make your film as appealing as possible.

But I don't care for feeling deceived.

'Admission' presents itself as a zany comedy (with heart!) starring Tina Fey and Paul Rudd. The trailer includes a cow-birthing scene and an awkward shared shower, among other wacky moments. Only it turns out that the wackiness isn't as pervasive as you're led to believe. It's a much sadder offering one that doesn't quite click the way that it should have.

Portia Nathan (Fey; TV's '30 Rock') is an admissions officer at Princeton. She has built her career out of culling the thousands of yearly hopefuls down to the absolute best of the best. After 16 years, her boss Clarence (Wallace Shawn; 'A Late Quartet') is looking to retire and Portia is on the short list to become the new Dean of Admissions. 

But when she gets a call from her old Dartmouth classmate John Pressman (Rudd; 'This is 40'), everything begins to change. John runs a developmental school called Quest; he has requested that Portia consider one of his students an odd duck named Jeremiah (Nat Wolff; 'New Year's Eve') for admission into Princeton. Jeremiah is a unique student, to be sure, but there's one extremely complicating factor.

Jeremiah might just be Portia's son.

Meanwhile, Portia also has to deal with her hyper-feminist mother (Lily Tomlin; TV's 'Malibu Country') and the sudden disintegration of her long-term relationship with her boyfriend (Michael Sheen; 'Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2'). The chaos of her personal life as well as possible burgeoning feelings for John results in a frantic, desperate need to get Jeremiah into Princeton, no matter what the cost.

There's no doubt that Fey and Rudd are about as likeable a pair as exists in Hollywood today. Not only that, but both are tremendously gifted comedic actors. So it's a shame that their talents are largely squandered on a script that contains multiple moments of clumsy contrivance; it's also not nearly as funny as the trailers might have led you to believe.

That's not to say that Fey and Rudd don't give it their all. That aura of amiability translates into a sweet chemistry that really pops when it's allowed to shine. Unfortunately, much of that is lost in a morass of trumped-up twists. The constant misfortune that befalls Portia is too much; while it is true that most comedy is just tragedy turned upside down, 'Admission' takes it too far. It's really hard to laugh at someone for whom you feel so much pity.

The supporting cast does some solid work. Wolff is wonderfully awkward as the wayward Jeremiah. Tomlin is all bristle and bluster as the angry loner of a mom and Sheen has some funny moments, though their overuse lessens their overall impact. In the end, this film belongs almost solely to Fey and Rudd, for better or for worse.

Alas, it's mostly for worse.

'Admission' has some funny moments and it has some poignant moments. Unfortunately, the film never seems quite able to determine what its focus should be. This results in a movie that never quite clicks. It isn't a bad film, per se in fact, it's probably better than I'm giving it credit for but that lack of cohesion (not to mention a flawed and contrived ending sequence) torpedoed it for me.

Maybe this one should have been wait-listed.

2 out of 5

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