“A.C.O.D.” stands for adult children of divorce, as you’ll learn if you decide to take on this 87 minute comedy that brings together some awfully recognizable faces for what turns out to be a very short roller coaster ride so unthrilling it probably doesn’t even need a seat belt or lap bar. Commentary, both direct and indirect, is offered about marriage, love and the like, but it gets lost in silly banter and easy to dislike conversations that don’t offer much in the way of entertainment value.
Anytime a film opens by telling you that its primary content is about the failure people encounter when they try to build lives together is more or less sealing its fate, but given the recognizable names and apparent laughs that I thought were in store, I was optimistic when popping the “A.C.O.D.” Blu-ray into my machine. I was wrong, and depressingly so.
Meet Carter (Adam Scott), a man roughly a third of the way through his life who learns he was a child participant in a divorce study. Jane Lynch plays Dr. Judith, the mastermind behind the study and its participants. Carter’s parents, Hugh (Richard Jenkins) and Melissa (Catherine O’Hara), don’t really like each other all that much, but they do agree to tolerate one another just long enough to make it through their younger son’s wedding. Trey (Clark Duke) is unphased by the madness his parents operate within, and despite Carter’s warnings, falls in love and proposes to his girlfriend.
Speaking of girlfriends, Carter’s is named Lauren (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), and despite her beauty and charm, he can’t get over his own insecurity enough to want to be with her as husband and wife. The film ping pongs between Carter’s role in a whole bunch of different relationships: him and his brother, him and his parents, him and his fellow children of divorce study participants, you get the idea. What you might not get unless you watch “A.C.O.D.” is that Carter’s parents aren’t as happily divorced as he things, leading to some awkward moments as everyone gathers and preps for Trey’s wedding.
Colorful supporting characters fill space and talk too much, like the often funny Amy Poehler, who plays Hugh’s younger and sexier wife Sondra, and the always easy to look at Jessica Alba, who Carter is blatantly attracted to despite her off-putting mannerisms. They exist, at least from my perspective, to try and balance out Scott’s lead role without being connected to him as a love interest or direct family member. Sadly, they engage on a level of their choosing and not director Stu Zicherman’s, leaving the entire cast, many with long resumes and funny prior roles, on a seemingly deserted island with few necessary resources.
What I simply don’t understand about “A.C.O.D.” is that its funny moments are so often not related to divorce, but rather the situations its characters are living within during the film, most of which are self-imposed. One thing very noticeable is how often Carter leans on his parents’ divorce as an excuse for his own short comings and misgivings, often drawing sharp glares from the rest of the cast. He’s unable to leave that baggage at the door when he walks into his own restaurant, which made me think of the Peanuts comic strip character Pigpen, with his never withering dust cloud always trailing closely behind. Yet, somehow we want him to win in the end, even though we never get the vibe that his victory would be sustained for the long term.
I struggled with how casual everyone seems to be as it relates to valuing their relationships and communal lives. Sure, families are dysfunctional all the time, but the rate usually varies periodically. “A.C.O.D.” works to communicate this point, but it doesn’t want its audience to think that such frustration has pushed its leads into slapstick or violence. Keeping it verbal seems to be a safe path, as the limits can be pushed but not so far that anyone really gets hurt beyond repair. At the film’s conclusion, nothing extremely good or extremely bad has happened to anyone during “A.C.O.D.” We’re left to wonder if the method to the madness is as simple as Carter makes it look, or if he just drew hit a Blackjack after going all in.
The film unsuccessfully builds one’s investment in it, and because those on screen are more self-indulged than harmonious, you don’t develop much of a fondness for them, no matter how many chuckles or situational funny laughs they drum up. “A.C.O.D.” doesn’t provide much more than a few moments where the banter is raised to a level that is simultaneously funny and engaging, but this doesn’t change the fact that the banter itself is being hashed out by uninteresting characters who you couldn’t care less about. It feels hollow and empty, like a divorce probably does, and perhaps that is the film’s most simplistic and direct take away.
The film’s image is mostly clean, with slight grain visible periodically. It’s a minimal distraction at worst, however. The 1080p High Definition 1.66:1 transfer is riddled with bright coloration all the way through. The attractive cast looks all the more so given how clear the close-up facials come through. The video transfer is among the best things that “A.C.O.D.” brings to the table.
Audio wise, we’re satisfied with the film’s English 5.1 DTS-High Definition Master Audio soundtrack. The songs are well picked and run well with the plot, but the occasional spoken word or sarcastic insult is not as easy to pick up as it probably should be. Rest assured that you won’t go without, however. Natural background noise is audible, but hardly takes center stage. Additional audio selections include French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1s, while English, French and Spanish subtitles are offered.
Several cast and crew discussions are here, as well as some Amy Poehler outtakes and a few mock featurettes and public service announcements. A digital copy is also provided.
A Final Word:
This is a one-and-done release, and even the one is probably more than it really deserves. I rarely see individuals enjoy talking about divorce as much as the characters in this film do, and given the gap from reality to fiction that is suggested, it’s probably best to keep one’s distance.