"Admission" -- What should be a hilarious, long-overdue pairing of two hugely likable, superstar comedians ends up being a major disappointment. As much film and television work as they do individually, Tina Fey and Paul Rudd surprisingly never have worked together. In theory, her smart, zingy persona should mesh beautifully with his easygoing goofiness -- or their shared dynamic should bounce, or snap, or have some sort of life to it. Instead, Paul Weitz's direction of Karen Croner's script is tonally erratic: too fast in spots and too much of a slog in others. It certainly doesn't help that the characters feel like types without much nuance. Even reliable comic veterans like Fey and Rudd can't find much that's new or fresh in these people, and as a result they have zero chemistry with each other. Fey, as a Princeton University admissions officer, is always uptight, precise and emotionally closed-off. Rudd, as the do-gooder founder of an alternative New England high school, is always free-spirited, adventurous and open-minded. Even in the fantasy world of romantic comedies where opposites attract and sparks fly, these two have no business being together. Nat Wolff plays the odd, brilliant student who may be the son Fey's character put up for adoption as a newborn and Lily Tomlin provides the film's few moments of joy as Fey's maverick feminist mother. PG-13 for language and some sexual material. 100 minutes. One and a half stars out of four.
-- Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic
"The Croods" -- Cavemen -- they're just like us! -- or so "The Croods" seems to be saying with its familiar mix of generational clashes, coming-of-age milestones and generally relatable laughs. The animated adventure features a strong, star-studded cast and dazzles visually in wondrously colorful, vibrant 3-D, but the script doesn't pop off the screen quite so effectively. The simplistic message here is: Trying new things is good. It's a useful notion for kids in the crowd to chew on, but their older companions may be longing for something more substantive. Still, "The Croods" is both brisk and beautiful, and should be sufficiently entertaining for family audiences for whom few such options exist these days. And it might be especially resonant with young female viewers, with a strong, resourceful teenage girl at its center named Eep (voiced by Emma Stone in her usual charming rasp). It's the prehistoric era, and while the rest of Eep's family prefers the comforting safety of hiding fearfully inside a cave, with only sporadic outings for group hunts, she longs to see what's outside those stone walls. Her dad, Grug (Nicolas Cage), is especially protective, neurotically worrying about every possible unknown and urging the same sort of apprehension in everyone else. But everything changes when Eep escapes and meets a guy named Guy (Ryan Reynolds). Catherine Keener and Cloris Leachman co-star. PG for some scary action. 92 minutes. Two and a half stars out of four.
-- Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic
"The Sapphires" -- This Aussie hodgepodge is missing a lot -- detailed characters, a unique narrative arc, half-plausible scenes of the Vietnam War -- but it's got two uncommon things going for it: warm-hearted charm and Chris O'Dowd. They are not mutually exclusive. O'Dowd, the Irish comedic actor, has no proper business being in this film about four Aboriginal sisters in rural '60s Australia who set out to make it as a pop singing group. But this is the same actor who managed to play a Milwaukee police officer with his natural brogue in "Bridesmaids." His passport, thankfully, has some peculiar powers. Bowled over at a rinky-dink local talent show, he becomes the manager of the singing quartet (Deborah Mailman, Miranda Tapsell, Jessica Mauboy and Shari Sebbens). He shapes them into a Supremes-like foursome and soon they're off to entertain U.S. troops in Vietnam. There's a historical backdrop of Australia's discrimination against its Aboriginal natives, but first-time director Wayne Blair keeps the tone light. When the story moves to Vietnam, its less-than-expert filmmaking and threadbare, inauthentic settings get harder to forgive. But even at its most unpolished and cheesiest, O'Dowd and the film's bright spirit make it a tune hard to resist. PG-13 for sexuality, a scene of war violence, some language, thematic elements and smoking. 99 minutes. Two and a half stars out of four.
-- Jake Coyle, AP Entertainment Writer