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Admission (12A)

Admission with Tina Fey, Paul Rudd and Nat Wolff. Picture: PA Photo/Universal Pictures UK.
Admission with Tina Fey, Paul Rudd and Nat Wolff. Picture: PA Photo/Universal Pictures UK.

In August, thousands of teenagers across the UK will be biting nails down to the cuticle, nervously awaiting A-level results that might allow them to chart a course through the choppy waters of higher education. It's an emotionally fraught period, culminating in the sturm and drang of Clearing for students who fall short of the grade requirements for their chosen universities.

The admission office is the beating heart of each seat of learning, providing a central point of contact for prospective students, parents, teachers and advisers. It is here that potential undergraduates are judged on their merits, and coveted offers made to the select few who meet the academic and extra-curricular criteria.

Admission is a lightweight romantic comedy about a key member of staff at one of America's most prestigious universities, who bears this responsibility of making or shattering young dreams.

Portia Nathan (Tina Fey) is one of the most dedicated members of staff in the admissions office at Princeton University. Colleagues Ben (Michael Genadry) and Brandt (Christopher Evan Welch) seek her advice on their applicants and when Clarence (Wallace Shawn) announces his retirement as Dean of Admissions, workaholic Portia is his natural successor.

Clarence confirms that Portia and ambitious rival Corinne (Gloria Reuben) are the frontrunners and he will make a final decision once the current admissions process has been completed.

Portia throws herself into her work while dealing with the emotional fallout from losing her stuffy professor boyfriend, Mark (Michael Sheen), to a blonde member of faculty.

"Helen's having twins. My twins. I'm leaving you," Mark confesses coldly.

With her head in a whirl, Portia embarks on her annual tour of high schools in her district and visits a bohemian place of learning run by former college classmate John Pressman (Paul Rudd). He believes that his most gifted and quixotic student, Jeremiah Balakian (Nat Wolff), deserves a place at Princeton. More troubling, John also reveals a personal connection between Portia and the boy that compromises her objectivity.

Considering the calibre of on-screen talent, Admission should be a hoot.

Unfortunately, Karen Croner's script, based on the novel by Jean Hanff Korelitz, simply doesn't make the grade and boasts only a couple of decent laughs.

Gifted comic actors Fey and Rudd are a dream pairing in Paul Weitz's film and they share fizzing chemistry, but the trajectory of their characters' relationship is predictable. Lily Tomlin is a pleasing distraction as Portia's hippy mother, who fails to recognise her daughter's dulcet tones.

"How many people call you Mom?" wonders the admissions officer drolly.

She is a glimmer of delight in an otherwise laboured 108 minutes.

Grade C - must try much harder.

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