All of Oscar Grubman's (Aaron Stanford) prep school friends - including best friend Charlie (Robert Iler of Sopranos fame) - tell him that he's a 40-year-old trapped in a 15-year-old's body. Instead of feeding on pop culture and pop music, Oscar spends his time quoting Voltaire and listening to opera. Think of him as a Max Fisher minus the bullshit. He strives to be cultured and sophisticated well beyond his years, and girls his age just don't cut the gouda.
Instead, Oscar prefers his women more "experienced," and his current unfortunate obsession is his stepmother Eve (Sigourney Weaver). He's full of passion and enthusiasm and French witticisms, and thinks these qualities will win Eve away from his self-absorbed history professor dad (John Ritter). So, he heads home for Thanksgiving, fixed on declaring his feelings.
But constantly sidetracked from his goal, he wanders drunk and dejected into the groping arms of Eve's licentious best friend Diane (Bebe Neuwirth) who falls in lust with Oscar's youthful intensity. In one of the movie's funniest scenes, Oscar tracks Diane down at a cafe where she's having tea with girlfriends, only to find out that - not only has she told all her friends about their tryst - but they all want to give him their phone numbers. Oscar spends much the rest of the movie trying to cover up his indiscretion in hopes of winning over Eve, but will he ever confess his love?
Short, simple, charming, and brilliant, Tadpole is a rare find in a sea of summer blockbusters and overblown budgets. Armed with an incredibly clever and funny script and efficient pacing, it delivers so much in a well-tuned 77-minute package. More impressive, the Sundance crowd-pleaser was also shot in less than two weeks entirely in digital video (which sometimes becomes apparent through washed-out colors or graininess).
But the real secret to Tadpole's success is its amazing cast. Neuwirth - all sexual confidence and newfound, forty-something rebellion - steals the show every moment she's on screen. Weaver plays Eve with elegant tenderness. Best of all, newcomer Stanford gives the otherwise arrogant, exasperating Oscar a deep sensitivity and sincerity, bringing us into his distorted adolescent mind where a 15-year-old apparently has every right to seduce his stepmother.
One interesting question that begs to be asked, however, is what if the roles were reversed (older man and young girl)? Would we find this charmer quite as funny? Oddly, Tadpole nearly completely ignores the taboo that 40-year-olds shouldn't be seducing 15-year-olds - precocious or not. But playing with that provocative line is part of the film's allure, and it seems to work against the backdrop of New York City cosmopolitan outrageousness.
The film's only real stumble is its somewhat convenient ending, which saps a little of our respect for an otherwise winning protagonist. But there's so much ahead of that ending that makes Tadpole a treat. And if you go to a 7 o'clock show, kids, it won't keep you up past your bedtime.
DVD features a commentary from director Winick.
Run time: 78 mins
In Theaters: Thursday 7th November 2002
Box Office USA: $2.9M
Box Office Worldwide: 2
Distributed by: Miramax Films
Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 78%
Fresh: 83 Rotten: 24
IMDB: 6.3 / 10
Director: Gary Winick