There are no bad jokes in Admission. There are no embarrassing pratfalls, silly twists, or stupid gags. Admission isn’t a dreadful bore. It’s not mawkish, it’s not awkward, and it’s not dumb. In fact, the only thing wrong with Admission is that it’s not a very good movie.
I watch a lot of middling movies. Some of those middling movies have featured Paul Rudd or Tina Fey. Most of them, however, feature someone like Steve Carell or Jennifer Aniston or Owen Wilson or Jason Bateman or Renee Zellwegger or Sandra Bullock. None of them have ever featured Tina Fey and Paul Rudd, two actors that I both like and admire very much. I feel a connection to them, or at least as much a connection as one can feel to two people I have never met, and with whom I’ve only seen on television or in movies. As someone who had had a wealth of experience with middle-of-the-road generic films, however, I feel qualified in saying that, if you have to watch a middling movie, Tina Fey and Paul Rudd are the two people you’d want to be stuck with. I’d much rather watch Fey and Rudd coast through an ordinary, formulaic studio film than almost anyone else. They’re a comfortable presence, prepossessing, appealing, and inviting enough to make sitting through an unexceptional movie a mindlessly pleasant experience.
Admission stars Fey as Portia Nathan, a Princeton admissions officer living a tedious but not objectionable life. She reads admissions essays, goes home to her live-in boyfriend of 10 years (Michael Sheen), and leads a quiet, Type-A existence.
During application season, however, she receives a call from John Pressman (Rudd), who runs a nearby alternative high-school school. Portia visits the school, ostensibly to speak about the Princeton admissions process, but she’s informed by John that one of the school’s students, Jeremiah (Nat Wolff), may be the child she gave up for adoption when she was younger. Naturally that revelation coming in the heels of her boyfriend leaving her, shakes up Portia’s mundane life. She finds herself fighting to slip Jeremiah — an otherwise hopeless candidate — through the cracks in Princeton admission process. Meanwhile, she also falls for John, a single dad with impulse control issues, a winning smile, and a child looking for some stability in his life.
It’s an exceedingly predictable film, and despite the presence of both Fey and Rudd, it’s not really a comedy, either. There’s an occasionally amusing moment, but it’d be better described as a light drama, and not a very good one, at that. But it’s not offensive. In fact, if I had to watch a bland, unimaginative movie about two people falling in love through their shared willingness to help a teenager be admitted into Princeton, there’s hardly anyone I’d rather see glide through all those familiar beats than Fey and Rudd, who elevate Admission into an amiable film perfectly suited to in-flight entertainment on cross-country flights.