Put Paul Rudd and Tina Fey alongside each other in a romantic comedy, and I'm pretty much guaranteed to see it at some point. "They're both so charming," I told my colleague here at In Reel Deep explaining why I saw Admission despite very middling publicity for the film.
"Sometimes, I think that's all they are," he shot back. Point taken.
But even if both Rudd and Fey's film careers are settling in to a rut of irresistibly likable mediocrity, I'm not going to sit here and complain. I mean, there is a one-note nature to John Wayne's C.V., and he's pretty much the biggest movie star there's ever been. Not every film can be True Grit or El Dorado or The Searchers. I never let that ruin my enjoyment of the scores of other John Wayne films I've seen.
That's a roundabout way of saying that Admission is a thoroughly mediocre film that is elevated ever so slightly above that status merely on the strength of its two stars, the neurotic, heart-in-the-right-place Fey and the aw-shucks-he's-great Rudd. Fey plays Portia Nathan, an uptight admissions counselor at Princeton who is consumed almost completely by her job until she's dumped by her long-time boyfriend Mark (Michael Sheen) and Rudd's John Pressman, a teacher at an alternative grade school, shows up claiming to know the identity of the son she gave up for adoption many years before.
With a promotion on the line at the admissions office, all this personal upheaval couldn't come at a worse time. Further complicating matters is the pending application to Princeton of Jeremiah (Nat Wolff), whom she believes to be her biological son. It's enough to turn her world upside down and practically force her into a series of ethically questionable situations, culminating in some pretty dramatic life changes for both Fey and Rudd's characters.
It occurs to me now that the presence of Fey and Rudd is enough to throw you off the scent of this film. If you go in expecting an Apatow-ian romp of bathroom humor, well, you're not going to be pleased when the credits roll. No, this is a pretty straightforward romantic comedy -- the kind that seems to be a dying breed at this point. Come into it from that perspective and Admission is actually quite enjoyable.
Unlike the Katherine Heigls and James Marsdens of the world, Fey and Rudd are more than capable of pulling off the comedy part of a rom-com (too often an element left to sassy best friends these days). And, well, they are both so charming. Who wouldn't want to see them end up together in the end?