“Admission” is not only disappointing because you’d hoped more of the A-list actors: it just plain fizzles, as either a romantic comedy or cautionary drama or a coming of age film. And it’s certainly no action-adventure, either. Tina Fey plays a Princeton admissions counselor who finds herself suddenly dumped by her boyfriend, and also seriously considering an application from an otherwise unqualified underachieving student who may or may not be the son whom she gave up for adoption when she was a college student. Paul Rudd, as the boy’s teacher in an offbeat “alternative” school, is supposed to supply the soaring romantic interest, but their relationship never gets off the ground. Even Lily Tomlin as the aging-hippie weird-old-hermit-mother can’t save this tepid tale. The real scary part is how subjective college admission processes might actually be, even the high-powered Ivy League schools. But we knew that, didn’t we?
Speaking of subjective, isn’t Spring Break more a state of mind than an event? “Spring Breakers” is more like a subliminal extended music video. It really doesn’t bother with plot, just a lot of fast-paced video of girls in bikinis (or less), playing with their sexuality, playing with guns, playing with drugs and alcohol abuse, playing at being gangsta girls, and playing with the boys who fall into their gravitational pull, except that eventually everyone crashes down into hardscrabble reality. Sure, we’re scandalized by former Disney innocents showing us their sultry, sexy, bad girl side---wait, that’s been done before, right? Despite all the prurient-seeming “girls gone wild” visuals, the real star of this ADD/artsy/montage movie is actually James Franco, in a silver-toothed punky funky drug-dealer role. Charisma has rarely been so creepy.
Speaking of creepy, just when you thought Nicolas Cage was reduced to playing his own caricature, career death by self-parody, along comes “The Croods,” a perfectly delightful animated family film, where Cage is the lead voice. He plays a Neanderthal family man, Grug, who does the loving/protective bit a little too well, and is frustrated with his rebellious teenage daughter Eep (Emma Stone) because she just doesn’t want to obey the house rules he’s made for everyone’s survival: namely, when in doubt, hang out together in the dark cave. While loving Mom and atavistic baby and grouchy Grandma don’t seem to mind all that smothering constant togetherness, Eep longs for something different, and find herself walking toward the light, toward exploration, and adventure, and independence and…yes, romance. Guy (Ryan Reynolds) is both a more technologically advanced caveman, and a kinder, gentler personality, but he’s trying to sound the alarm about impending environmental disaster. Not only is evolution in the air, so is catastrophic climate change, which pushes along the plot as well as helping us all to feel the love of the pre-historic cave dwellers, despite traumatizing life-changing events. “The Croods” is innocent fun for all ages, with humor and charm and warmth.
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Minister, St. Stephen’s Presbyterian Church, Irving, Texas