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Tadpole (July 25/02)

Right off the bat, Tadpole's got two elements it has to overcome: It's shot on digital video and it stars a 25-year-old as a teenager. And while they're both pretty distracting for the first third of the film, the likable nature of the movie allows them to finally recede into the background for the duration.

The film opens with boarding school student Oscar Grubman on his way home for Thanksgiving, accompanied by his best friend (played by Robert Iler). Oscar reveals that he's got a crush on his mother-in-law (Sigourney Weaver), and intends to tell her of his true feelings over the weekend. He winds up sidetracked, though, by a brief dalliance with her best friend - a chiropractor with no guilt over the fact that she's just slept with a 15-year-old (she herself is in her 40s). Now, Oscar's got to figure out a way to let his mother-in-law know how he feels while also ensuring that she never finds out about his affair.

Tadpole is one of those plotless flicks that manages to squeak by on charm and charisma. It doesn't hurt that the film runs around 75-minutes, a length that prevents the movie from ever overstaying it's welcome. Assuming the title role (Tadpole is Oscar's nickname) is newcomer Aaron Stanford, who proves to be an exceedingly talented young actor. However, his talent does not afford him the ability to disguise his true age, which is obviously not 15. And since he's been paired with Iler, an actor who genuinely looks like a young teen, the fact that he's in his 20s sticks out like a sore thumb. Still, he's undeniably a good actor and infuses the character with a combination of innocence and world-weary cynicism (this is a kid, after all, who reads Voltaire in his spare time).

Among the supporting cast, it's the trio of adults that make the biggest impact (Weaver, Bebe Neuwirth, John Ritter). Neuwirth, as the older woman who sleeps with Oscar, easily sheds her Lilith persona from Cheers and perfectly embodies this tenacious character without ever taking it over-the-top. As for Weaver and Ritter as Oscar's parents, they're both really good - especially Ritter, sporting a Robin Williams-esque beard, as the befuddled dad.

Tadpole doesn't exactly go anywhere unique or amazing; it just tells this simple story in an equally simple matter.

out of

© David Nusair