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Review: Funny, smart 'Admission' makes grade

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If "Admission" is any indication, Tina Fey's post-secondary career following the end of her sitcom "30 Rock" looks very promising.

Fey stars as Portia Nathan, an uptight Princeton admissions officer who leads a boring existence as she wades through endless applications from students hoping to attend the prestigious Ivy League university. Things change, though, when a huge opportunity for a promotion comes up, leading Portia to step outside her safe zone to visit an alternative school at the urging of one of its engaging instructors John Pressman (Paul Rudd).

John is mainly interested in introducing Portia to Jeremiah (Nat Wolff), a quirky but brilliant college-bound student who the teacher believes is a perfect fit for Princeton. More importantly, though, John believes Jeremiah may be son that Portia gave up for adoption years earlier.

The revelation, naturally, turns Portia's world upside down; but it also gives her the determination to help Jeremiah succeed in his quest, even if it means it could cost the veteran admissions officer her job -- which, after her longtime boyfriend (Michael Sheen) leaves her, is really Portia's only security blanket.

Interview: "Admission" star Lily Tomlin, screenwriter Karen Croner

Directed by Paul Weitz ("About a Boy"), "Admission" has everything going for it. It's unique yet relatable, funny and poignant, and above everything else, it's smart. Fey and Rudd have great chemistry together, and both are very funny in a subtle sort of way without ever having to force any comedy.

While Fey and Rudd deliver as expected, it's Lily Tomlin who steals the show as Portia's aging feminist mother, Susannah -- who proves in a hilarious scene where she's introduced to Rudd's character that she's one person you don't want to mess with. It's a great film.

"Admission," rated PG-13, 3 1/2 stars out of 4.

See the trailer for "Admission" below.

What other local critics are saying …

Chris Hewitt of the Pioneer Press finds lots of faults in his 3 star review of film, but says it still succeeds "largely because Fey's light touch and quick wit keeps things humming past the rough spots."

Colin Covert of the Star Tribune also gives "Admission" 3 stars. Praising the script, he notes, "while college-themed comedies aim for low-SAT yucks," this film "tosses out jokes and cultural references that aim higher."

Bring Me The News film critic Tim Lammers is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association and annually votes on the Critics Choice Movie Awards. Locally, he reviews films on “KARE 11 News at 11” and WCCO Radio. As a feature writer, Tim has interviewed more than 1,000 major actors and filmmakers throughout his career and his work is syndicated nationwide.

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