"Tadpole" (IMDb listing) is a tale about an overachieving 15 year-old boy who falls in love with an older woman, all the while quoting Voltaire and swatting away other older women who deeply desire him. No, it's not a science fiction picture, but a warmly acted, less than entertaining romp that just might have visions of Wes Anderson's "Rushmore" ringing through your head.
Oscar Grubman (Aaron Stanford, "Hollywood Ending") has returned home from boarding school for one reason only: to get close to his stepmother, Eve (Sigourney Weaver), whom Oscar has the hots for. While distracted by his inability to share his feelings, and by his father's (John Ritter, looking a little bored but nevertheless entertaining) insistence that he should find a girlfriend, Oscar finds his way into the bed of his stepmother's best friend, Diane (Bebe Neuwirth). Watching his world slowly collapsing in front of his eyes, Oscar resolves to turn his bad luck around and try to find a way to make Eve notice him in a way she didn't before.
"Tadpole" is a lightweight film, so much so that it almost floats away from your eyes. It's tough to enjoy such a bubbly film, even when the filmmakers fight like mad to make it all mean something with oh-so-precious literary quote interstitials, a New York location, and the picture captured on digital video. Without those elements in play, this film could easily be "Porky's 4" in a heartbeat. But since "Tadpole" is so relentlessly "witty," I was slightly won over by its one-dimensional charms, and even more so by its 69-minute running time. This film, like a trashy beach novel, is a quick read, and blessedly so.
Yet, in the mindset of less is more, the filmmakers have shortchanged the characters they profess to love. Oscar's lustful intentions for Eve are amusing at first, but we never see the origins of the infatuation, nor do we see Eve's reaction to Oscar's eventual full-court-press. The film is built around this association, but it's never clear what kind of relationship they had to begin with. Oscar's relationship with Diane is also given the quick brush-off by those around the couple, something I find hard to believe even in a cinematic world.
Also of concern is the look of the film. Though filled with familiar actors and Big Apple landmarks, "Tadpole" has all the glorious color scheme of chocolate ice cream soup. I've never been a fan of the digital video (DV) look. There is no real theatricality to support "Tadpole," making it come off as a student film, albeit a student film with a Tony/Oscar/Emmy calibrated cast. The DV does nothing to advance the story, nor does it envelop the viewer into this crazy world. It reeks of simple laziness, especially when scope lenses and color film could've done this picture a world of good.
In the film's defense, at least one actor comes to play. While Weaver is mostly relegated to smiles and fantasy sequences, Bebe Neuwirth is positively hell on wheels as the 40-something seductress. With a killer glint in her eyes and heartbreak in her hips, Neuwirth is about as perfect as perfect casting gets. Her scenes with Aaron Stanford are what make "Tadpole" click, but unfortunately, the two aren't given enough room to play for very long.
Reportedly an audience favorite at this past year's Sundance film fest, "Tadpole" is far too indifferent to make any kind of impression beyond smiles and speed. See it only if you like the actors, or if the air conditioning breaks.
Filmfodder Grade: C-