“Tadpole” is as slight and charming as the title character, a 15-year-old prep school kid named Oscar (played by 25-year-old Aaron Stanford) with a crush on his stepmother.
Oscar comes home for vacation determined to tell his stepmother how he feels. But it is harder than he thought. There are too many people around all the time. And, when he does get her alone, it is a challenge to get Eve (Sigourney Weaver) to see him as anything other than her husband’s bright kid. But the biggest complication is that before he can tell Eve how he feels, he is seduced by her best friend, Diane (Bebe Neuwirth in a performance as dry and potent as a double martini).
So, “Tadpole” combines the coming-of-age movie with some moments of sex comedy. Or, maybe coming-of-age movies always have some moments of sex comedy – making fun of the terror and humiliation of loss of control.
It’s a silly premise, but it can be a silly time of life. Oscar is just outgrowing his childhood nickname of “Tadpole.” He is a winning combination of young and old for his age. The movie makes up for its weak and awkward premise with some moments of great humor and subtle insight. Oscar’s talk with his professor father (John Ritter) about the importance of listening, and his own demonstration of the impact of paying attention on Diane’s friends are nicely done. Stanford, Weaver, and Ritter are all first-rate.
Parents should know that the movie has a lot of non-explicit but mature material, including Diane’s seduction of Oscar. Her friends show a lot of interest in him, too. Characters drink and smoke. Oscar gets drunk, which makes him vulnerable to Diane. And Diane tells Oscar that she can only keep his secret if she does not drink.
Families who see this movie should talk about how young teenagers often develop crushes on unattainable objects as a way of experiencing early feelings of love without the complication of intimacy.