Review Roundup: ‘Admission,’ ‘On the Road,’ ‘Olympus Has Fallen,’ ‘Spring Breakers’

admission

Arriving in Atlanta theaters this week: Admission, the new film starring Tina Fey as Princeton admissions officer Portia Nathan. Portia’s world is turned upside down by a series of personal revelations and interactions with John Pressman (Paul Rudd), a free-wheeling do-gooder who believes his student, Jeremiah (Nat Wolff), is the son Portia gave up for adoption when she was young. Portia begins to bend the rules to try and get Jeremiah into Princeton, putting the life she wanted at risk in exchange for something unexpected and far more interesting.

Tina Fey is at her best when she’s writing her own material. That’s why her most memorable roles to date come from 30 Rock and Mean Girls, along with her take on Sarah Palin for Saturday Night Live. Unfortunately, Fey didn’t write Admission, and while she still delivers a pretty great performance, it’s easy to imagine her role—and this film as a whole—popping a little more with Fey’s razor-sharp dialogue.

Fortunately, Admission is still good for several laughs, thanks to the performances of Fey, Rudd, and a talented ensemble that also includes Lily Tomlin, Wallace Shawn, and Michael Sheen. It’s nothing revelatory, though. I can only hope that Fey gets back into feature writing sooner than later, because we need another top-notch Tina Fey film.

Also In Theaters:

There are always challenges in adapting classic works of literature like On the Road for the screen, and while plenty of films succeed on some level, they’re rarely perfect. There’s one thing that On the Road gets right, though, and it’s the casting of Garrett Hedlund as Dean Moriarty. Hedlund’s natural charisma and undeniable sex appeal carry the scenes he’s in. Otherwise, in spite of an admittedly solid performance from Sam Riley as Sal Paradise and a ridiculously talented bench for supporting cast—including Amy Adams, Elisabeth Moss, Steve Buscemi, Kirsten Dunst, Viggo Mortensen and Terrence Howard—the film often meanders, thanks to a fitfully melodramatic script.

In the action genre, there’s a subgenre dedicated to politically-themed disasters. Just in case the White House hasn’t been blown up enough by Hollywood, two more films this year involve terrorists taking the building over. While the bigger-budget White House Down comes out later this year, this week sees Olympus Has Fallen hitting screens nationwide. As films of this genre are wont to do, there’s a lot of mindless action, but the film is saved by a solid half-hour takeover scene for conquering the White House, as well as a largely believable cast to sell the film. Fortunately, after a series of dreadful romantic comedies, Gerard Butler returns to the action genre here, where he belongs. Morgan Freeman brings his usual gravitas as the Speaker of the House. And let’s just say that Aaron Eckhart’s President Benjamin Asher may be the sexiest fictional president ever. Good lord.

We have an early contender for Worst Film of 2013. Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers is getting a lot of attention for the Disney-shedding turns by Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgins, along with yet another out-of-left-field performance by James Franco. A lot of critics say the film contains sharp social commentary, but I disagree. All that I see here is an excuse for pure hedonism; bared breasts, drugs and violence abound. It’s mind-numbingly repetitive, which is only made worse by being repetitive about absolutely nothing. I swear, if I’d taken a shot every time James Franco mumbles “Spring break,” paramedics would’ve had to take me out of the theater on a gurney. Come to think of it, that sounds like a better option than sitting through the film.

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