With her television career now behind her, Tina Fey can now focus full time on movies, and if her latest, Admission, is any indication, it will be a ride worth taking.

Mean Girls, Baby Mama, and Date Night all had varying levels of success, but none of them really gave her a chance to sink her teeth into something with more depth than a kiddie pool. Admission, though, shows us just how accomplished Fey is. And while the same can’t entirely be said of the movie itself, it still bodes well for Fey’s post-tube career.

Fey is Portia Nathan, an admissions officer at Princeton. She’s stuck in a near-platonic relationship with an English professor (Michael Sheen) and locked in a battle with a colleague (Gloria Reuben) to replace the outgoing Dean of Admissions (Wallace Shawn).

When she receives a call from old college pal John Pressman (Paul Rudd) inviting her to his alternative high school to scout prospective students, she goes, only to find out his ulterior motive; he thinks one of his students may be the child she put up for adoption 17 years earlier.

The script by Karen Croner (One True Thing), based on the novel by Jean Hanff Korelitz, is equal parts Judd Apatow and Richard Curtis. To call it a straight-up comedy would do disservice to the heart-tugging drama that emerges as Portia begins to grapple with John’s revelation. But there is plenty of (often silly and borderline zany) comedy at play here, too.

Everything meshes together splendidly until Admission nears the end, when a clich├ęd ending begins to rear its trite head. The film may have actually worked better as an over-the-top comedy, particularly as Portia tries her darndest (and then some) to get the kid into Princeton. But then sap factor gets ramped up, and that’s when things start to head south, albeit ever so slightly.

Fey, for her part, proves that she’s not just all about Sarah Palin impressions. There’s some nice work on display here, demonstrating that she’ll be quite alright as she watches 30 Rock fade in her rearview mirror.

3.5/5 stars