A frustratingly not-terrible action thriller.
"Tadpole" tells the story of a bright 15-year-old who has a crush on his stepmother and actually sleeps with her best friend, in part because the friend is wearing the stepmother's scarf and the lad is powerless over the evocative lure of her perfume. The sexual excursion is not the point of the movie, really, but the set-up for its central scene in which young Oscar has dinner with his father, his stepmother, and the friend, who wickedly threatens to reveal their secret.
Watching the movie at Sundance in January, I tried to accept this premise on its own terms, but could not. Too much has happened in the arena of sexual politics since "The Graduate," and I kept thinking that since Oscar was 15 and his stepmother and her friend were about 40, this plot would have been unthinkable if the genders had been reversed. The best friend, far from teasing the new sexual initiate with exposure, would have been terrified of arrest, conviction and a jail sentence for statutory rape.
I am, I realize, hauling political correctness into a movie where it is not wanted. I know there is even a lighthearted mention of the laws involved. I know I praised "Lovely & Amazing," which also features a romance between an adult woman and a teenage boy. But "Lovely & Amazing" is about events that happen in a plausible world (the adult is actually arrested). "Tadpole" wants only to be a low-rent "Graduate" clone.
Does it succeed on that level? Not really. True, the dinner scene has its moments, as Oscar (Aaron Stanford) squirms, his lover Diane (Bebe Neuwirth) grins wickedly, his stepmother Eve (Sigourney Weaver) keeps up the conversation, and his father Stanley (John Ritter) practices a suave cluelessness which is his strategy for dealing with life. Neuwirth is really very good here, and the scene supplies the one moment when the movie seems sure of what it wants to do, and how to do it.