While most college-themed comedies aim for low-SAT yucks, “Admission” tosses out jokes and cultural references that aim higher. Director Paul Weitz (“About A Boy”) has a fine track record with this sort of lightweight but smarter-than-average fare. Lily Tomlin sparkles as Portia’s mother, an old-guard feminist who warns her daughter against longstanding entanglements with men. After her character has been established, we notice that she has a shoulder tattoo of Bella Abzug.
There are plenty of details like that, tossed in just to tickle whoever notices. The laughs here are mostly honest, rarely forced, and triggered by our identification with misguided folks, this one overcompensating through workaholism, that one through wanderlust, and that one through political pontificating.
Likable as Fey and Rudd are, their performances don’t break any major new ground. The acting honors go to a trio of winning supporting players. Sheen is blisteringly funny as Portia’s tweedy boyfriend, eyes wild with fear that she will trip over evidence of his indiscretions. Reuben, so strong and noble as the first lady’s maid in Spielberg’s “Lincoln,” is exquisitely disingenuous as the office predator with her eye firmly on the dean of Admissions slot. And Shawn is perfect as the outgoing boss, a sincere but gnomelike product of a privileged class whose defense of hallowed intellectual traditions is a grown-up game of eenie-meenie-miney-moe.
Top marks all around.
Rating: PG-13 for language and some sexual material.