Tadpole (2002) Poster

(2002)

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9/10
Wonderful acting, great script...what's not to like?
ilikeimdb11 May 2003
I've read some other comments about the poor film quality/picture quality of this low-budget, quickly done fairly short (77 minutes) film. Frankly, I'd rather watch Tadpole ten times than sit through the horribly boring technically beautiful special effects of either StarWars I or II. Tadpole captures the essence of interesting film making by focusing on the characters, the story, the situations; and it does so in a way that's doesn't parrot yet another low-brow TV situation comedy. Between the inspired writing, the well nuanced acting on all counts (with nary a weak performance anywhere), and the decent editing, I fail to see how one can complain about this movie from the perspective of it being an enjoyable mini-novella/romp through New York. Comments I've read on the weak acting I find unsupportable by any normative standard.
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Reviewers missing the point
mwyarbrough29 July 2003
I'm perplexed by the number of people who seem to miss the crucial element of this film: that Oscar is not as mature as he thinks he is. His "love" for Eve doesn't feel real to the viewer because it's not. His patter--at tea, in the bar, and elsewhere--feels forced and self-conscious because it is. Because he is very intelligent, he makes the classic adolescent mistake of overestimating his own maturity and the force of his own feelings. As Diane, Bebe Neuwirth points out that it's not his maturity that draws so many women to him, but that he is still unjaded. That is, his most attractive quality is in fact the precise opposite of what he thinks it is. Eve's rebuff, though a bit ambivalent, forces him to reevaluate his own feelings. The film's only major flaw is that it leaves this process underexplicated, but when at the end he is more responsive to his classmate's overtures it becomes clear that he is starting to see the light, however vaguely. The film's point is thus obvious: a crucial part of growing up is realizing how much growing up one has left to do. That it makes this point in such a refreshing, funny, and absurd way is the film's charm.
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yes, it's lightweight, but how often does a genuinely witty, funny romcom come along?
campanologist19 June 2003
I don't understand the attacks that have been made on this film - not just on this site, but elsewhere on the web.

There are a few holes in the script, and the whole things is less substantial than a soap bubble, but it's still charming, witty and very funny. There are points where you feel they haven't followed something up enough, or explained something enough, but this film has better developed characters than almost any other romantic comedy you could name. Plus, of course, explanation isn't everything. In fact, sometimes, you're better off without it. A film that requires you to think, speculate or assume what might have happened between scenes - or before the film started - isn't that a good thing?

Much has been made of the DV look of the film, but I hardly noticed - and I like a well shot piece of celluloid as much as the next person. Sometimes, though, you just don't need the gorgeous, sweeping vistas of Lawrence of Arabia - and this is a small, independent gem. The use of DV is probably rather more to do with budget than laziness. In fact laziness would seem to be an unlikely part of the equation, what with the film being shot in a fortnight.

If the thought of a 15-year-old spouting Voltaire fills you with the urge to punch someone, this probably isn't the film for you. But how often does a thoughtful, not formulaic, intelligent, witty film come along. My advice would be to disregard the minor flaws and enjoy. 8/10
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touchy but occasionally amusing comedy
Buddy-513 August 2003
Oscar Grubman is a `40 year-old trapped in a 15 year-old's body,' a bright prep school sophomore who prefers Voltaire and Henry Miller to icons of pop culture and more `seasoned' women to girls his own age. The problem is that the woman he fancies himself in love with now is his very own stepmother, a heart specialist appropriately enough named Eve.

Despite the admittedly touchy subject matter, `Tadpole' exudes a great deal of undeniable charm, thanks, primarily, to superb performances by a first-rate cast and to the wry humor of much of the Heather McGowan/Niels Muller screenplay. Aaron Stanford and Sigourney Weaver are wonderful as Oscar and Eve, two extremely intelligent people who know that in other circumstances they might have been able to act on their feelings but who have the wisdom and maturity to see things for what they truly are. The possibility of giving into a `forbidden love' can exert a powerful force on an individual, and `Tadpole' does a nice job capturing that theme in a lighthearted, non-threatening way.

Of course, `Tadpole' taps into that age-old fantasy of a young boy's obsession with an older woman and one wonders how the audience would feel if the situation were reversed and he were the 40 year-old and she the 15 year-old in the relationship. I suspect, somehow, that a film on that subject would carry with it a darker, more sinister tone than the one we find in `Tadpole.' Actually, there are a number of very funny scenes in this film, with much of the humor deriving from the secrecy, misunderstandings and double entendres that would naturally arise from such a situation. Indeed, some of the movie plays like classic Restoration farce with an ersatz-incestuous twist. A good deal of the humor arises from the fact that the older women in the film see in this precocious teenager the kind of passion, intelligence and sensitivity that they don't find in men their own age.

Director Gary Winick shot the film in a digital format, giving the movie a slightly shaggy `independent' feel. This heightens the sense of intimacy and immediacy needed to confront this particular topic without seeming to exploit it at the same time. A slicker, more `commercial' look and approach would most likely have made the film appear too sleazy, distasteful and arch. As it is, we are amused at the same time we are appalled.

`Tadpole,' by lowering the protagonist's age and keeping the matter `all in the family' so to speak, has brought `The Graduate' into the 21st Century.
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10/10
An excellent film...wonderful example of storytelling.
kwar89118 June 2002
I was lucky enough to see this film at the Cine Vegas Film Festival last week and I must say that I am shocked at its low overall score thus far. The best part of this film is its screenplay. Heather McGowen and Niels Mueller did an wonderful job putting this story together. If you are looking for a film that knows how to develop its characters, build suspense and most importantly can tell a story the way it is meant to be told, then you need to see Tadpole. The acting in this film was also excellent. Bebe Neuwirth, John Ritter and Aaron Stanford gave great performances. This is a funny and touching film that anyone that is a fan of a good screenplay will enjoy.
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7/10
3 stars (out of 4)
mweston15 October 2002
Oscar Grubman (newcomer Aaron Stanford, who is really about 25 years old) is a precocious high school sophomore. *Really* precocious. He regularly speaks French in his normal life, and seems to always be reading Voltaire (the one liners seen throughout the film as inter-titles are apparently Voltaire quotes).

The film happens over a long Thanksgiving weekend in New York City. We first see Oscar on the train on his way home, briefly talking to a pretty classmate who seems interested in him. After she leaves, Oscar's friend Charlie (Robert Iler from "The Sopranos"), who may be the sanest character in the film, asks Oscar about her, and Oscar dismisses her by saying that her hands are those of a baby. Apparently he appreciates hands that show more character.

We soon learn that the hands he really likes belong to Eve (Sigourney Weaver). She's a medical researcher, whose marriage to Oscar's father, Stanley (John Ritter), makes her Oscar's stepmother. Oscar does not seem deterred by this little obstacle. I can see his point, as I am also a huge fan of Weaver's (even going so far as to see "Heartbreakers"), but the age difference is pretty extreme, not to mention that little almost incest issue.

Diane (Bebe Neuwirth from "Cheers"), is a chiropractor who is Eve's best friend. *You might want to skip the rest of this paragraph if you don't know much about the film already.* Oscar runs into Diane late at night after drinking too much, and when he smells Eve's perfume on a scarf Diane borrowed, Oscar "accidentally" ends up sleeping with her. This scenario is of course reminiscent of "The Graduate," although Oscar's age causes some to question whether this is comedy or statutory rape. I vote for the former, and in fact Oscar's inexplicable ability to easily be served alcohol in a neighborhood bar bothered me more.

Much comedy ensues. In fact, it occurred to me later that low budget independent films are rarely comedies, and even more rarely this well done. The writing was was only adequate to good, but the performances were very good, especially from Bebe Neuwirth. And some of the wordless reaction shots are priceless.

The film was shot on digital video and transferred to film for distribution to most theaters. I have read complaints about the quality, but it seemed tolerable to me, except perhaps in the opening shots from the train. What matters is that it is not distracting.

I enjoyed this film quite a bit. It isn't life altering in the slightest, but it isn't trying to be. It's definitely worth checking out.

Seen on 8/31/2002.
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6/10
Charming light comedy never takes itself seriously...
Doylenf13 March 2008
With subject matter that many might consider offensive (fifteen year-old boy in love with his step-mother and seduced by older woman), TADPOLE manages to be a charming, witty light comedy with a sensitive look at a controversial theme--a coming-of-age story with heart.

And its hero, a sophisticated fifteen year-old played by a twenty-five year-old actor (AARON STANFORD), is a natural in the title role, completely convincing as the impressionable youth living with his step-mother (SIGOURNEY WEAVER) and father (JOHN RITTER) in a fancy New York City apartment. Ritter plays the busy working father in one of his rare serious roles and is excellent, as is Weaver as the woman who discovers that her son has been having an affair with her best friend (BEBE NEUWIRTH). Neuwirth makes the most of her sly comic scenes as a temptress who awakens hormones in the teen-ager. A restaurant scene with the boy and his parents is a highlight of the story, where her deceptive conduct is exposed by Ritter's observation of an indiscretion in a mirrored image.

Witty and humorous, never taking itself seriously, it's an amiable tale told with deft touches and it moves briskly under Gary Winick's nimble direction with some nice glimpses of Manhattan's upper east side.
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2/10
A Disturbing Double Standard
sddavis6329 August 2003
Warning: Spoilers
Am I the only one who sees this? On the surface, from reading the description this movie seems like innocent fun. A teenage boy (Peter Appel) falls in love with his stepmother (Sigourney Weaver). It seems almost refreshing, since most movies about stepmothers have her as the hated one. But I found this movie disturbing, and not in a way that sometimes makes a movie worth watching. (SPOILERS AHEAD)

Much of the movie revolves around the sexual encounter between Jimmy (Appel) and Dianne (Bebe Neuwirth), which becomes the source of what comedy there is in this movie. Excuse me? Reverse the roles for a moment. If a forty-something man had had a sexual encounter with a 15-year old girl, people would be up in arms about this movie. There would have been calls to ban it. But when it's a forty-something woman fooling around with a 15-year old boy, suddenly it becomes a cute, funny coming of age story? And it's loaded with cliche lines like "he's old enough to take care of himself;" "you're old enough to make your own decisions." No he's not - he's 15! This is the classic double standard. It's good for a teenage boy to have experiences with an older woman; it's scandalous if a teenage girl has the same experiences with an older man. (I find it scandalous either way, and I'm embarrassed to admit that at one point I fell into the double standard too and found myself wondering why the kid would even be interested in Sigourney Weaver when he could have the incredibly sensual Bebe Neuwirth! It just shows how deeply ingrained this double standard is in us.)

There was some potential here, had the story revolved around the truly rather innocent love Jimmy felt for stepmom Eve, but I just couldn't get around the double standard. For what it's worth, the performances were generally all right, except for John Ritter as Jimmy's dad, who came across as rather uninterested through most of the picture.

2/10
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6/10
Only a Reasonable Entertainment
claudio_carvalho2 January 2005
Oscar Grubman (Aaron Stanford) is a fifteen years old French student, who lives in USA, and spends the Thanksgiving with his father Stanley Grubman (John Ritter) and his stepmother Eve (Sigourney Weaver) in their apartment in New York. His mother is French and lives in France. Oscar is very precocious, cultured, polyglot and loves poetry, and he finds the girls of his age very silly, feeling a great attraction for older women. Oscar has a crush on his stepmother. However, her forty and something years best friend Diane Lodder (Bebe Neuwirth) has an affair with Oscar, and he becomes quite confused with this new situation. "Tadpole" is a reasonable comedy only, having some funny situations, but never reaching a target, having a terrible conclusion. When the viewer finishes watching the film, he will certainly ask: -What is the point? Further, in accordance with the information in IMDb, Aaron Stanford was born in 1977. Therefore, he was completely miscast, being twenty-five years old and pretending he is fifteen. Further, he is not charismatic as his character would require. John Ritter is a reasonable actor, but looks very snob in the role of a history professor of Columbia. Sigourney Weaver is lost, in a character who is neither "Mrs. Robinson" nor an example of a faithful wife. The best parts of the story belong to Bebe Neuwirth, who is amazingly funny and makes the film worth, together with its soundtrack. In summary, "Tadpole" is a forgettable entertainment, recommended for killing time. My vote is six.

Title (Brazil): "Um Jovem Sedutor" ("A Young Seducer")
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5/10
unfunny and not that compelling
SnoopyStyle2 January 2015
Oscar Grubman (Aaron Stanford) is oddly sophisticated at 15. He idolizes Voltaire and is particular about women's hands. He is secretly in love with his stepmother Eve (Sigourney Weaver). He is back at home in NYC from Chauncey Academy for the Thanksgiving weekend. His father (John Ritter) is concerned. Eve's best friend Diane (Bebe Neuwirth) starts a sexual fling with him and tells all her girlfriends.

The kid is self-important and not very compelling. Also he doesn't really look 15 at all which takes away some of the tension. The movie is aiming to be a quirky indie except it's not funny. It's a little particular in its tone but not very interesting. The story is a teen in love with his 40 something stepmother. That could be interesting. This is a twenty something guy in love with Sigourney Weaver. Who isn't?
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THANKSGIVING LEFT-OVERS
george.schmidt22 July 2002
TADPOLE (2002) ** Sigourney Weaver, Aaron Stanford, Bebe Neuwirth, John Ritter, Robert Iler, Kate Mara, Adam LeFevre, Peter Appel, Alicia Van Couvering, Hope Chernov, Debbon Ayer, Ron Rifkin. Indie hit at Sundance doesn't always mean surefire instant classic as proven in this precious mix of `The Catcher in the Rye' meets `Rushmore' via `The Graduate': snob prep schooler Stanford (suggesting Topher Grace's lethargic brother) returns to his Upper West Side environs for Thanksgiving break to announce his long-hidden secret to his step mother (Weaver): he loves her. Along the way instead he's detoured into a troubling one-nighter with her best friend (Neuwirth, the true saving grace of this overrated film) who proves to be a problem with his desire to come clean about his notions of what love is. Weaver's talent is muted here but Ritter provides some much needed comic relief in one of cinema's best 'choke takes' ever seen. The biggest setback of this otherwise tedious debut by director Gary Winick (who collaborated with his writers Niels Mueller and Heather McGowan) is its anti-hero being such a one-note faux intellectual spouting quotes form Voltaire and pretending not to like girls his age (notably the fetching Mara) that one wants to ring his neck from frustration of his dreadful putting on airs. Why anyone would find him attractive is beyond me since he is a total turn off socially; speaking French only hastens the matter! What could've been a slice of a John Updike short story in its approach fails in its myopic assumption of creating a cult hero like Benjamin Braddock or Holden Caulfield.
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4/10
A Graduate this is not!
jotix10029 August 2002
Whatever went wrong with director Gary Winick's Tadpole is beyond imagination.

This has to be among the worst films of the year. I mean, if you laugh once, it's too much.

The whole idea of Aaron Sanford's Oscar in love with his step-mother is not a far-fetched thing. However, the execution of this story is done very badly.

I don't know where to put the blame, but it has to fall on the director's lap since he misuses all the principals big time.

It's hard to believe that Sigourney Weaver, or even Bebe Neuwirth have lend their names to such an idiotic comedy.

The best thing is its length. It couldn't end soon enough for me.
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2/10
Charmless, facetious boy-meets-woman nonsense...
moonspinner5523 February 2011
Bebe Neuwirth's performance as a 40-ish chiropractor in New York City who has an affair with a high school sophomore holds the only interest in this ridiculous, inexplicably celebrated independent film shot on digital video. Aaron Stanford plays Oscar, who is described for us as a "40-year-old living inside a 15-year-old's body"; he quotes Voltaire, reveals a fetish for great hands, and harbors a crush on his stepmother, a medical scientist who apparently doesn't notice the moony-eyed look on her stepson's adoring face. "Tadpole" was picked up at Sundance by Miramax, who couldn't market this thing to anyone but the most rabid Sigourney Weaver fans. Weaver does decent work as the object of Stanford's affection, however it is Neuwirth as a sort of updated Mrs. Robinson who steals the show. Otherwise, this is a comedic flirtation with sophisticated manners which is in itself not sophisticated. The clumsy writing spells out everything for us, the characters are all predetermined, and Stanford is singularly without dimension or appeal. * from ****
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9/10
I laughed the whole way through.
Jaimer5 June 2002
I don't think I can give an intellectual critique of this movie, because I reacted to it in a very emotional way: I loved it. I laughed all the way through. The thing that struck me so funny wasn't the dialogue so much as the facial expressions of the performers (though I did laugh every time Bebe Neuwirth opened her mouth.) The look on Charlie's face when he finds out Oscar is in love with his stepmother, the amused look on Diane's face as she watches Oscar panic during dinner at the French restaurant...I could go on.

Also, John Ritter performs the funniest choke take I have ever seen, during the aforementioned French restaurant scene. In short, I enjoyed this movie immensely and have already recommended it to all of my friends.

Finally, in response to the person who found the Voltaire quotes pretentious: I agree, but I think that was the point. After all, a 15 year old who reads Voltaire and thinks girls his age are beneath him is pretty damn pretentious himself.
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2/10
Am I missing something?
ldavis-218 November 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Just caught this on IFC. Poster mwyarbrough thinks those who have a problem with "Tadpole" don't get it: "Because he is very intelligent, Oscar makes the classic adolescent mistake of overestimating his own maturity..." The problem with this assessment is that no adult in the real world, no matter how sophisticated (and the adults here twist themselves into pretzels to "prove" how "sophisticated" they are) would put up with this obnoxious little sh*t for 5 minutes! The only thing that rang true in this Murmur of the Heart wanna-be is Obnoxious Little Sh*t's paranoia about Step-Mama's Gal Pal. But how he tries to stop her is mean, and when she all-too happily drops the bomb, Dad (who's such a wuss, he opens his Thanksgiving toast with an apology to Native Americans) won't confront them, and Step-Mama reacts with some half-hearted "I'm shocked" retorts. As others have noted, a crime was committed, but only in the movies can a 15 year old boy be served at a bar without getting carded, bed an older woman, have other older women swoon over him, and French kiss Step-Mama, who tells him: "You're old enough to make your own decisions!" Oy! No wonder Sundance ate it up, critics compared it to Woody Allen, and Miramax picked it up for a whopping $6 million! That whirring sound you hear is Voltaire spinning in his grave!
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4/10
Film has nothing to say
rosscinema25 August 2002
The film was funny and very well acted but the problem I have is that they took this story and laid it out but had nothing to say about it. No moral to the story or any conclusion what so ever. It just kind of ends like they had run out of ideas. The film is badly photographed also, I found it difficult to look at. Kind of like an early Spike Lee film that was shot through a dirty nylon stocking. The acting is good especially by Bebe Neuwirth who is both sexy and funny. But no ending at all! No conclusion. So after the film is over you have to ask yourself, "What was the point in making this"?
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5/10
rather dull
cherold19 December 2004
From the movie trailer for this it looked like some sort of teen sex comedy, but that was a decidedly misleading trailer. I wound up watching this on the recommendation of a friend, and she was right, it wasn't in any way the exploitive trash it appeared to be from the ad. But I probably would have liked it about as well if it had been; at least then it would have been livelier.

I think the reason my friend liked this more than I did is she related to the title character. When she was in her early teens she considered herself an adult and was pining after her teachers. Even though I also had an intellectual bent, I don't recall any teachers or adults from my childhood who struck me as either intellectual compatible with me or especially sexy, so I just couldn't connect with the premise. I also had doubts that things could turn out the way they did; it seemed just about as realistic as those teen exploitation movies. But mainly I was just generally bored. The dialog and story and characters just didn't interest me.

But my friend loved it, for whatever that's worth. We almost never agree on movies.
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7/10
An Intellectual Growing Up Movie
tabuno26 January 2019
9 March 2003. There is something cynically delightful in this teenage movie - it's much more sophisticated than most juvenile movies. There is a upper-class air of snobbish humor, Ivy-League anti-intellectualism going on here. The ending is much more subdued and is more of a serious, morality tale than some juicy tidbit for ratings and punk sleaze. The lines are good, the intent of this movie is good. Overall, Tadpole was a fun experience about really growing up, a slice of life piece that while not breaking into the top of the quality charts, offers something worthwhile in the way of teenage movies. The producers should be commended for avoiding the easy, cheap plot directions and the box office traps that this movie could easily have become, making this movie one of many just like it. Instead, Tadpole manages to stay above the fray and make a statement about love and relationships. Strangely, it's much more conservative, but refreshingly so in a sophisticated, back door mental way. Seven stars out of ten.
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4/10
An unfunny Oedipal mess
MBunge18 October 2010
Warning: Spoilers
TADPOLE 2002

Written by Heather McGowan and Niels Mueller. Directed by Gary Winick. Starring Aaron Stanford, John Ritter, Sigourney Weaver, Bebe Neuwirth, Robert Iler, Peter Appel and Kate Mara.

This movie is like Sara Palin's ultimate fantasy about how the residents of New York City are intellectually pretentious and morally degenerate.

Oscar Grubman (Aaron Stanford) is a 15 year old kid who's come home from boarding school to spend Thanksgiving with his dad and stepmom. Aaron Stanford looks like he's closer to 30 than 15, but that turns out to be a good thing as the film goes along. Oscar is the sort of budding college literary dick that thinks reading Voltaire and speaking French at his age is some sort of accomplishment. He also thinks teenage girls are beneath him. That's because Oscar is in love with his stepmom, Eve (Sigourney Weaver). Standing in the way of his semi-Oedipel ambitions are Oscar's clueless doorstop of a father (John Ritter) and Eve's best friend (Bebe Neuwirth), who Oscar ends up sleeping with in a moment of weakness. After a comedy of manners dinner and a laughably heartfelt scene between Oscar and Eve, Tadpole concludes by actually asking the audience to seriously consider that maybe Eve should have an affair with her 30 years younger stepson.

If an actor who genuinely looked 15 had been cast as Oscar, watching this film would have been a thoroughly skeevy experience. Since Stanford looks old enough to have played a teenager on the original Beverly Hills 90210, that's not an issue. Robbed of its pedophilic overtones, however, Tadpole stands revealed as an aimless piece of crap. This is a 45 year olds half formed fantasy of what he wishes had happened to him when he was 15 after he's forgotten was it was really like to be that age. The only good thing about this story is that at only 78 minutes long, it never has time to wallow in its own crapulence.

This is a comedy where no one tells a joke and then it gets all serious at the end, as though there's some profound meaning to be discovered in a teenager wanting to screw his stepmom. It's the sort of movie that repeatedly flashes Voltaire quotes up on the screen. It's a film that confuses sophistication with Three's Company-style misunderstandings. I'm sure there are some folks who think the pretentiousness of Tadpole is intentional. That it's a satire of that sort of urban intellectual preoccupation. The flaw in that theory is that Oscar's pretensions are validated at every step along the way. Instead of portraying him as a deluded kid who only thinks 40 year old women would be attracted to him, the movie actually has a gaggle of 40 year old women find Oscar attractive.

The only person in the entire story who finds Oscar's affection for Eve even slightly objectionable is his fellow classmate and comedy relief sidekick Charlie (Robert Iler). Oscar's father isn't bothered when he finds out his son slept with his wife's best friend. Heck, Eve isn't even that bothered when she finds out her best friend slept with her stepson. And when she finally figures out that Oscar is in love with her, instead of finding it silly or shocking or cute, Eve is deeply moved by it. She doesn't laugh in his face. She gets all quiet and pensive. But the more seriously you take the situation, the more seriously you have to take the ethical, psychological and ethical implications of it. Tadpole never does any of that, yet it does take things too seriously to generate any humor out of the absurdity of the situation. You will find some laughs here, but you'll always been laughing at the movie and not with it.

There is one good thing about this film and that's the work of the slinky Bebe Neuwirth. Her character may be morally repugnant, but she's also funny, sexy and enticing. She's like that naughty relative you love seeing at family reunions but would become a chore if you saw them all the time. There might have been a pretty good story to tell about this woman playing emotional and mental games with Oscar, but these filmmakers never noticed it.

Tadpole is a movie that started out as a bad idea and never got any better as things went along. Unless you're a George W. Bush voter who'd like to have your prejudices about Barack Obama voters confirmed, you can give this film a pass.
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8/10
Mum's the Word
DavidSim24018314 October 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Tadpole made a splash at Sundance, announcing the arrival of Gary Winick. But after Tadpole provided him with a ticket to the mainstream, Winick showed a predilection for blander, more middling material. The increasingly dire likes of 13 Going On 30, Charlotte's Web, Bride Wars and Letters to Juliet. This dreary, undistinguished career would have probably continued until it was suddenly cut short when Winick succumbed to brain cancer.

Tadpole was quite risqué for the normally conservative Winick, and the one shining light in an otherwise throwaway career. You have to wonder what it was about Tadpole he got right that he managed to get wrong on everything else. And when a theme is a teen being romanced by a woman twice his age, something bound to raise the eyebrows of more than a few in an audience, Winick's accomplishment seems all the more remarkable.

Winick seemed to fancy himself a Martin Scorsese or a Steven Spielberg. Someone with the capacity to take on any genre regardless of what it was: family films; rom-coms; fantasy, etc. Tadpole seemed to be Winick's attempt at a Woody Allen movie. It lacks the same introspection, but compared to everything still ahead for Winick, its a gem.

Oscar Grubman (Aaron Stanford) is visiting his parents in New York for Thanksgiving. He's got all the girls swooning over him, but he's only got eyes for Eve. She's smart, classy, sophisticated. Everything he wants in a woman. She's perfect, except for one pesky detail. She's his stepmother! Oscar hasn't even finished prep school yet, and just sees the age barrier as a hurdle to surmount.

While his father Stanley (John Ritter) tries to set Oscar up with every teen girl on the Upper East Side, things spiral out of hand when Oscar falls into bed with Eve's best friend Diane (Bebe Neuwirth, delightful). She's quick to brag about it, while Oscar tries to sort out mixed emotions before Thanksgiving dinner.

There's a scene in Tadpole when Oscar is described as having the soul of a man in a teen's body. Gary Winick later conducted a gender reversal on that idea, to much blander effect in 13 Going On 30. Tadpole was one film where Winick pulled everything together. Since he never pulled off that trick a second time, I suspect it was more to do with the excellence of the cast, and having such a witty script at his disposal.

Admittedly, Tadpole makes things easier on itself by having a male teen (instead of a teen girl) caught in a love triangle with two older adults. Aaron Stanford is also too old to credibly play a teenager. But the script is deft the way it deals with Oscar's romantic entanglements. Part of the reason for this is because scriptwriters Heather McGowan and Niels Mueller place Oscar at the centre of a marvellous triptych of conflicting adults.

Eve, Stanley and Diane are all well defined. Sigourney Weaver gives Eve a great injection of class. Its obvious why Oscar loves her so, even if she is his stepmother! John Ritter plays Stanley with perfect indifference to the insane situation going on around him. But the performance that lights up the film comes from the vastly underrated Bebe Neuwirth.

Its great the way Neuwirth walks a fine line between spicing up her love life and committing such a reprehensible act. Diane doesn't mind sleeping with a teen who showed interest in a woman her age. Granted he was drunk at the time but Diane can learn to live with that! What amazed me more than anything about Tadpole is that for such a potentially squeamish topic, and something Winick never managed with the far safer Bride Wars or 13 Going On 30, is that the film is funny in spite of that.

I did find it difficult to believe that Diane would want to boast to the girls in her age range about Oscar, but Neuwirth's delight at watching the situation snowball into a sublime comedy of errors is joyous. It all blossoms into one wonderful scene in a NY restaurant, where Oscar, Eve, Stanley and Diane are all at dinner together. Weaver's sobering intelligence, Ritter's condescension and Neuwirth's glee at Stanford's discomfort play off of one another superbly.

The one thing that lets the film down is a bland visual scheme. Tadpole was made extremely low budget, and it shows. The film looks like its being captured through the lens of a camcorder, but not like cinema verite. I think that was all they could afford on the budget they had at hand, but because the actors are working from such a terrific script, that's enough to carry Tadpole over the rough spots.

Another plus is Winick is content to let the actors lead the show without too much interference from him. He just lets them tell the story without resorting to obvious signposting. Something that seemed to escape him on Charlotte's Web and Bride Wars. The nearest it ever gets to that is the constant quotations from Voltaire. I'm not sure the film needed these because they tend to get in the way of the narrative, and what with only a running time of 78 minutes, they feel more intrusive than informative.

Still, Tadpole is a film of surprising charm. It never does resolve the dilemma it sets up for itself, and Oscar is more naive than he likes to believe. I also would have preferred an extended running time, and it works better as comedy than it ever does as drama, but Tadpole is winning, sharp and very insightful. All things you can never say about any other Gary Winick movie.
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an interesting film about a crush
MLDinTN29 July 2003
In this movie, a high school kid, Oscar, has a crush on his stepmom. He thinks he loves her but ends up sleeping with her friend. Luckily, this didn't turn gross because the kid never hooks up with his stepmom. At the end, he starts losing interest in her and starts looking at a girl his own age.

This movie won't make you laugh out loud. But, it does have some comical situations. At least it isn't a mindless flick.

FINAL VERDICT: It is short and mildly entertaining. If you happen to see it on TV, you might want to stop and watch it, but this isn't what I would call a must see movie.
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10/10
My... What a very honest and sincere film!
DrLovelick31 July 2002
I came in this film expecting that it would deal a lot with Oscar's obsession with older women. It turns out this film is NOT just about that, but ultimately leading to how he has such high expectations. He doesn't really come across as a snob but rather as an adult trapped in a kid's body. What "Tadpole" really is about is Oscar trying to adjust to life at his age and girls who are as old as he is.

Oscar (Aaron Stanford): I don't know. I just don't think they've lived long enough.

Eve: Why don't you give them a chance?

I knew that from hearing these two lines of dialog, "Tadpole" would not be a raunchy or sick kind of film. The ending concludes that Oscar Grubman just needs to relax and open himself up and learn to accept Eve as his stepmother, instead of falling in love with her.

In terms of the love parts of this film, I really like how there's more talk and conversation. It makes you think that these characters are really getting to know one and another. The scene where Oscar meets Eve at her laboratory in Columbia University is just showing how much Oscar wants a mature and articulate woman. He's not a perverted or stupid guy who thinks of getting in a girl's pants.

All in all, this is one of those rare mature and honest films that deals with a issue like this in an intelligent, not mundane way. I wish more films made today were like this.

Only problem with this film is that the digital look makes this film look funny. Director Garry Winick needs to realize that making a motion picture on "film" guarantees a much better resolution and texture than digital video does. Lower cost filmmaking isn't necessarily the better solution (unless you're a first time filmmaker).

By the way, Roger Ebert gives this film thumbs down. I swear, Ebert is loosing his reputation as a Pulitzer Prize winning film critic. He gives great indie films such as "Tadpole" and "Dangerous Lives of Alter Boys" bad vibe, yet gives positive criticism for "Like Mike" and "Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course." Man, I'm beginning to think Ebert should have reviewed by himself, instead of getting that idiot Richard Roeper on board
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10/10
Great! Best so far of 2002!
mchofan151 September 2002
This movie was wonderous! Bebe Neuwrirth desirves an oscar for sheer charm alone! There has been few rare occasions where I came out of a movie glowing (for example "The Royal Tenenbaums" and "Kissing Jessica Stein") and this movie caused such an occasion. It has some of the best writing since "Election". You must see this film! "If we can't find something pleasant, at least we will find something new..."10/10
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6/10
Weaver Bound, While Neuwirth Acts
frankgaipa31 August 2002
I was going to start by complaining that Tadpole's teenage Oscar, for all his spouting Voltaire, needed a little more Julien Sorel, a little more pride, even self-deceptive pride, about attaining Bebe Neuwirth's Diane. Sorel would have rationalized some way to manipulate his impure love, at one with his purer desire. But maybe some of this is already in the film and the character. Tadpole's best and funniest moments have Oscar and Neuwirth sparing as equals. As soon as it begins to soar though, it backs off. Weaver's directed to act ethereal, and that's what she does, as if she never loses sight of her image in the fictional Oscar's eye. To the film's loss, she seems to act not so much the innocently unaware object of Oscar's fantasy as the maudlin fantasy itself. She acts against the film's fictional reality. Maybe such things aren't feasible with a big star in a small film, but I would have, as much as possible, denied her access to the parts of the script that define Oscar. If not that, then I would have written her flawed somehow, fatally bored through some self-interest of her own with husband Ritter, or overwhelmed with a nonsexual crush on Neuwirth, inspired by Neuwirth's lack of restraint. She is, after all, as Oscar keeps saying, his STEPmother. Aside from Oscar's not-quite-past-jailbait age, and her legal marriage to Ritter, she's approximately as legal as Woody Allen was. Give her the freedom to truly hesitate over Oscar. I'm sure Neuwirth scares the hell out of some of the film's audience. Weaver, the bigger star, should have been allowed somehow to up the ante, to compete with Neuwirth, if not in details of the plot, then just as actress to actress. Neuwirth acts. Weaver's been allowed only to pose and pander.
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1/10
Nothing to see here.
Drxtc6 November 2002
I don't understand this film. I'm not being facetious, I seriously don't understand this film. The story revolves around a fifteen year old dickhead. This idiot is so arrogant, conceited, cold, condescending and rude it defies description. There is not one redeeming quality about this character whatsoever. In real life, with his attitude towards women, this guy couldn't get laid in a whorehouse. He's the type of arrogant dickhead that women laugh at and turn away from in disbelief.

Yet, in this...whatever...piece, women are flocking towards him in unbelievable numbers. Sure, I could understand if these were women that have no self-esteem or confidence, and actually wanted a man to abuse them so they could feel some sense of importance. After all, even abuse is a form of attention that they otherwise wouldn't be getting. But no, these are attractive, confident, successful professional women, and that's what I don't get, and that's where the whole premise of this film falls apart. There is not one speck of reality or believability in either the characters or the situations. No confident, successful woman would ever, and I mean EVER put up with the endless torrent of condescension this dickhead unapologetically throws their way. If these were destitute, suicidal women, or women who had been left alone and neglected their whole lives, then I could see an element of believability. But not the beautiful classmates and established women that line up to get near this guy. True, all the girls I know would also be lined up to get to this guy, but they would be lined up for blocks to bitch-slap him up and down the street and tell him to get over himself.

When I said "whatever", I meant regarding genre. What is this? It certainly isn't a comedy; there's nothing funny about either the dialogue or the situations. It's not a drama; dramas are more character pieces, and certainly nobody watching this film could possibly care about the lead character. You instantly hate him; your hate grows as you realize exactly how much he hates women and, to a lesser degree, everyone else in the world. Actually, in the one dose of reality you do get out of this dreck, you don't even care about the women he treats like dirt, because they all obviously could do so much better than him, but they keep coming back for more!

I'd love to live in this guy's world - because if this dickhead has this many beautiful women clamouring for him, I'd have a harem from here to Australia!

Just don't see this movie, O.K.? Please?
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