Tadpole Gary Winick

Tadpole Gary Winick
"Tadpole" was shot on digital video, a format that's becoming far more popular than it has any right to. As was the case with "Chuck and Buck," the use of digital is more distracting than anything else and tends to give the movie a home-video type of feel. But the intelligent writing and superb acting helps the movie in overcoming it's low-rent look.

The movie opens with Oscar Grubman (newcomer Aaron Stanford) heading home for Thanksgiving from boarding school. En route, we learn that Oscar (or Tadpole, as he's come to be known) has a crush on his mother-in-law (Sigourney Weaver) and plans on revealing his true feelings to her over the weekend. Complications arise when Oscar inadvertently sleeps with a friend of the family (it makes sense in the context of the film, really), and has to struggle to keep that information from being leaked to his crush.

It's a fairly thin story-line, but since the movie runs just over 75 minutes, it never becomes a huge problem. Initially, the biggest hurdle the film has to overcome is that digital video look. If it weren't for the familiar faces populating the cast, the movie would seem an awful lot like it was produced for public access. Another element of the film that requires some getting used to is the casting of 25-year-old Stanford as Oscar. This is a character that's supposed to be 15, an age that Stanford in no way resembles. It doesn't help that Robert Iler ("The Sopranos"), playing Oscar's best friend, does look like a teenager (and a young teenager, at that). Still, Stanford's performance is a great one, which certainly helps him transcend the jarring age thing.

"Tadpole" is, in fact, all about performances since there isn't a plot to speak of. The trio of adult leads (Weaver, Bebe Neuwirth, and John Ritter) are uniformly superb in their roles, with Ritter a standout as Oscar's befuddled dad. And though it's being marketed as a comedy, it's really not (or it is in the same sense that "The Graduate" was a comedy). Aside from an awkward dinner late in the picture, "Tadpole" remains a quirky human drama.
Tadpole will likely appeal to those tired of the summer movie bonanza, with its small story about a select group of people. It's certainly refreshing to see a movie that's centered around characters, so on that level, "Tadpole" is worth checking out.