Can we just start the summer movies now? Bring on The Wolverine and The Lone Ranger. Fill the multiplexes with Hangover and 300 sequels. Anything to stanch the trickle of sad, shrugging mediocrity that finds its way into theaters between awards season and the next wave of blockbusters. Anything to clear the mind of dismal voids like Admission.
See if any of these ingredients sounds fresh to you: a successful career woman whose suspended maternal instincts may soon thaw; a too-good-to-be-true single dad; precocious kids teaching their elders valuable life lessons; a man-hating ballbuster of a single mother; a horny middle-aged professor with an Eastern European accent; an icy-bitch co-worker. Admission, an attempt at Ivy League-set romantic comedy, offers all this and less. It's some pretty threadbare tweed, and it suffocates Tina Fey and Paul Rudd — both of whom inspire a not-unearned "I'd watch them in anything" loyalty, which Admission aggressively challenges.
As Portia Nathan, a Princeton University admissions officer who's pushing 40 and growing invisible to her longtime boyfriend, Fey isn't far from Liz Lemon country. That wouldn't be an unfair convenience to exploit, if director Paul Weitz could find the Liz in Portia or break past Fey's 30 Rock brand. But Admission is so indifferently filmed and ineptly edited that no one is able to give a performance. The thing is a lank, ugly wall of reaction shots meeting failed punch lines, set to off-the-rack sitcom music and sub-Cranberries pop songs.
Those bad jokes belong to Karen Croner's screenplay, which turns its source material — Jean Hanff Korelitz's witty, involving 2009 novel of the same title — into stale farce. If Weitz (whose About a Boy, co-written and co-directed with brother Chris Weitz, is a model of easygoing best-seller adaptation) knows better, he does nothing to prevent Croner's clichés and inanities from piling up. The weight of Admission's generic ideas about parenting, career and gender proves too much for Fey and Rudd (and Michael Sheen and Lily Tomlin, among others), who wince and slouch through their parts. It's enough to make you almost look forward to World War Z.