We all love Tina Fey, not just because she’s brilliant, but because she’s always the same. It’s comforting, like going to Mongolia and seeing that golden McDonald’s arch as you ride up in your ox cart.

Her Sarah Palin will go down in comedy history with Will Ferrell’s Bush, Darrell Hammond’s Clinton and Fred Armisen’s Obama. But as for acting in big screen films, it will always be Tina Fey doing Liz Lemon from “30 Rock.” And we’re totally down with that.

In “Admission,” Portia Nathan is a Princeton U admissions officer who has been interviewing prospective students for more than 16 years and of course, rejecting or wait listing most of them. It’s the way of the admissions’ world.

Director Paul Weitz does a good job of populating the snooty admin office with good characters played by terrific actors: Gloria Reuben departs from her usual good girl TV parts, to be a nasty girl.

She is Tina’s competition for the top job soon-to-be vacated by the fabulous Wallace Shawn. Shawn is a rare presence on the screen these days, and that’s a shame, because only Shawn can deliver on those parts where a cold-hearted intellectual snob with a winning smile is called for.

Wally is equally always the same, and that’s great. Remember what happened to Coke when it tried to mess with the recipe?


Happily, the plot moves along quickly. Tina, I mean Liz, I mean Portia, is on the edge of burning out, and in a last-ditch effort to add something new, brings in a candidate from a little known New England high school: New Quest.

Here, the ubiquitous, and I mean ubiquitous, Paul Rudd, who also remains the same lovable Paul Rudd, is the school’s director, John Pressman, a former, and unremembered classmate of Portia at Dartmouth.

Rudd is another of the those much loved actors because he never offends, is always lovable and even appeals to parents who are confident that he probably always wears clean underwear and doesn’t spit.

Teacher Pressman is so good a guy here, that he teaches English and sustainable irrigation and delivers babies from pregnant cows. He’s also a universalist who has adopted a Ugandan boy (Travaris Spears.) What mom wouldn’t want a hubby like him for her daughter? A cute internationalist.

Tina Fey, I mean Portia, has been living with a creepy, nerdy, hirsute Brit (Michael Sheen) but somehow, he went about having very American unprotected sex with a dominant colleague. So now Portia is afield and unconnected. Tina Fey meet Paul Rudd. You fill in the blanks.

Portia arrives at Pressman’s school somewhere in the country, and just as she is adjusting to crickets and ants, she is asked to help deliver a calf. Then, even before Pressman washes his hands, he introduces her to his adorable Ugandan and to his star student, Jeremiah, (Nat Wolf) who longs to go to Princeton. Jeremiah, we learn, is an “auto-didact” (self taught) who, despite bad grades, passes advancement placement exams without taking the courses.


It also pops up that Rudd, I mean, Pressman, tells Portia that Jeremiah may be related to her. Don’t worry, this was all in the previews, not giving anything away. Besides,that’s only a teaser to the really big story.

Then smack in the middle of this, Portia goes home to her mother who conveniently lives nearby. Mama is Lily Tomlin, a retired automatic weapon toting, militant feminist writer who may have been so far to the left of Jane Fonda that the Weathermen rejected her.

Director Paul Weitz who gave us the very nice “About a Boy,” carved this piece out of a novel by Jean Hanff Korelitz, and I think the book might just have been different.

What saves the movie from being rejected by the admissions office, is the presence of Wallace Shawn, and considering the mood I’ve been in all winter, the sweet, comfy warm sameness of Tina and Paul.

“Admission” is not without laughs, and keep your eyes open for that trap door in the admission’s office. I loved it.

J.P. Devine is a former stage and screen actor.

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