The struggle for higher education on silver screen

By on March 27, 2013

In the new film “Admission,” the action (such as it is) revolves around the insane lengths students go to in order to get into a big-league school like Harvard, Yale or Princeton- where this particular story is set- and in turn, the lengths admission officers go through to determine whether or not said student gets in or not. I have a system of my own when it comes to rating films, and the stars within them. It’s called, not entirely originally, the “pass” or “fail” system, and it’s not necessarily what you might think.

Judd Apatow and Tina Fey are the writer and starring actress respectively in "Admission," a mivie that looks at the hassle of applying to higher education. Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Common

Judd Apatow and Tina Fey are the writer and starring actress respectively in “Admission,” a movie that looks at the hassle of applying to higher education. Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Common

For instance, if a particular star does a project so good that it can hardly be questioned, they get a pass, sometimes for life. If said star does a project so bad that it can hardly be questioned, their pass is revoked, and they get a fail. There are also small considerations that I am willing to give that allow said stars to get exceptions, particularly those who have acquired a life-long pass.

Just to give an example, Harrison Ford is both Indiana Jones and Han Solo, so he gets a pass, period, in all that he does, no matter how questionable. Yes, that includes that last IJ movie. After all, he did the job he was hired to do; ergo it’s not his fault if the story fails him. He’s always good, even if the movie isn’t, so he gets a pass, period.

Nor does one have to be a star on that level. For another example, Sarah Michelle Gellar gets a pass, no matter what she does because she was the definitive “Buffy.” Kristy Swanson, though the originator of the role, does not because she did not define the role as we know it, and besides that, she’s just not that good of an actress. I think Gellar is, so she gets a pass, even on something less than stellar, like the recent “Ringer.”

Judd_Apatow_2012

So, has anyone ever had their pass revoked? Oh my, yes. Eddie Murphy certainly comes to mind. You can only forgive a person so much, you know? Christopher Walken, Al Pacino and Robert De Niro have all had their passes yanked at one time or another, and I go back and forth on them to this day. I mean, “The Country Bears”? “Jack & Jill”? “The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle?” Yeesh.

The thing is, though, all of the aforementioned actors are capable of redeeming themselves and have. Even Murphy bounced back with a well-deserved Oscar nod for “Dreamgirls” and captured some of that old magic in “Tower Heist,” so it can happen. But there are some people you just expect more from, you know? Murphy not so much, but freaking De Niro? Be still my heart.

Which leads me back to “Admission.” I love Tina Fey, and I love Paul Rudd. They have many, many pass-worthy things to their credit. Fey could sail along on her “SNL” credentials alone, but then she also has “30 Rock” on her resume to boot. Those two projects alone earn one a whole lot of good will, but her film career isn’t too shabby, either. I love “Mean Girls”- it’s not just a solid teen comedy, it’s one of my all-time top ten favorites. “Date Night” and “Baby Mama” were also both pretty decent, so her track record is pretty spotless.

 Paul Rudd plays in Judd Apatow's Admission which recounts many of the headaches students accress the country experience when applying for college. Luke Ford/Wikimedia Commons

Paul Rudd plays in Judd Apatow’s Admission which recounts many of the headaches students accress the country experience when applying for college. Luke Ford/Wikimedia Commons

Rudd is a bit more hit or miss, admittedly, but he was in another of my all-time favorite teen movies, “Clueless,” plus some great cult classics like “Wet Hot American Summer,” “200 Cigarettes” (shut up, I love it), “The Shape of Things” (not his typical fare, but so good), and of course, the legendary, soon-to-be-sequelized “Anchorman.” He also had the good sense to get himself involved in another modern teen classic, “The Perks of Being a Wallflower.”

Then there’s his sizable work with producer/writer Judd Apatow, such as “The 40-Year Old Virgin,” “Role Models,” “Knocked Up,” and the more recent- and somewhat underrated- “This is 40.” And that’s not even including much of his underrated dramatic work.

Between the two of them, then, a whole lot of pass, and not that much fail. So, it hurts me to have to give them a pass here, but there it is. “Admission” isn’t a terrible film, it’s just sort of there, you know? If you watched it on a rainy afternoon in the comfort of your own home, and you’re a fan of either star (or both), then you’d be like, “That was alright.” Not great, not an underrated gem, just…okay.

It’s kind of disheartening seeing these two stuck in such an average film, but it happens sometimes. Sometimes star power just isn’t enough, you know? The upside is, they’ve both long since earned a pass from me, even if the film doesn’t, so Fey & Rudd are still golden in my book. They get an “A” for effort.

But the film “Admission” gets, appropriately enough, a “C”- as in so-so at best. Better luck next time, you two, and I do hope there is one, because the one plus here is that they have decent chemistry together. They just needed a better script, I’m afraid.

Mark’s Movie Review 029

Mark Trammell
Staff Writer
ripmrgordo@hotmail.com

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About Mark Trammell

Mark Trammell is the resident entertainment critic at UAB, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, where he is also a Graduate Student and does a vid-cast movie review show. He is a life-long fan of films and has a pretty whacked-out, all-over-the-place movie collection that would give most sane people pause. He loves horror movies and Disney flicks and isn't entirely sure there is a difference. He one day hopes to put his money where his mouth is and inflict his own perverse vision on society, entirely so that he can tell people who ask: "If you think you can do better, why don't you make a movie yourself?" to shut up.
 
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