Tina Fey has become one of America's comedic treasures, which is why she deserves much better material than Paul Weitz's relationahip dramedy. But the spring timing is perfect, since it will strike a resonant chord for thousands of highly pressured college applicants and their cohorts.
As gatekeeper for one of the Ivy League's most prestigious universities, Portia Nation (Fey) works in the Princeton Office of Admissions, headed by Dean Clarence (Wallace Shawn), who has just announced his intention to retire. The likeliest candidates to succeed him are meticulous Portia and competitive Corinne (Gloria Reuben). Stressed by personal turmoil, exasperated Portia has been living uneasily with Mark (Michael Sheen), a philandering English professor, and coping with her free-spirited, avidly feminist mother, Susannah (Lily Tomlin), author of "The Masculine Myth." On a recruiting visit to New Quest, a newly accredited, highly experimental and utopian high school in New Hampshire, she reconnects with her former Dartmouth classmate, idealistic teacher John Pressman (Paul Rudd), who confides that he has reason to believe that 18-year-old Jeremiah Balakian (Nickelodeon star Nat Wolff), a gifted yet awkward and very unconventional student, might well be the son that Portia secretly gave up for adoption many years ago. Jeremiah is applying to Princeton; while his test scores are incredible, he's an autodidact (aka self-taught) and his grades just aren't good enough -- which places efficient, yet vulnerable Portia in an ethical pickle as she attempts to plead his case, bending inflexible rules in his favor among the 20,000 applicants for Princeton's class of 2016.
Scripted by Karen Croner ("One True Thing"), based on Jean Hanff Korelitz's novel, and directed by Weitz ("About a Boy," "In Good Company," Being Flynn"), the inconsistent, anti-elitist comedy seems forced and contrived, although Rudd oozes charm and Fey's smart, snappy, screwball timing is unparalleled. Together, they rise above the borderline obnoxious material, as does irrepressible Lily Tomlin.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Admission" is a savvy, serio-comic 7, an amiable diversion.