It's always nice when a strong cast of likeable, talented comedians gets together with inspired material to back them up, paving the way for laughs, insights, and entertainment. Sadly, however, that's not exactly what happens with director Stu Zicherman's comedy 'A.C.O.D.' Sure, the flick has the first half of that equation down just fine, but somewhere along the way the filmmakers forgot to give the movie's impressive ensemble anything worthwhile to do. There are a few mildly amusing bits here and there, and the flick's well-meaning enough, but the premise never really amounts to much, the humor is too sporadic, and the drama is dull. Underdeveloped and forgettable, much like its traumatized and stunted protagonist, the movie feels like it still needs to work out a few issues.
After surviving his parents' (Catherine O'Hara & Richard Jenkins) tumultuous divorce when he was a kid, Carter (Adam Scott) attempts to live life as a well adjusted "A.C.O.D." (which stands for Adult Child of Divorce). But when his little brother (Clark Duke) becomes engaged, Carter is persuaded into trying to get both of his still feuding parents to attend the ceremony without killing each other. As he struggles to ease their hostility, a few more unexpected hiccups develop, and soon Carter is forced to confront his own commitment issues while desperately trying to save the wedding.
While the premise is a bit silly and thin, the script's setup still has some solid potential, quickly and clearly establishing a ticking time bomb of comedy and drama. Oddly, though, this bomb never really goes off. Instead, the humor often feels forced and uneven, frequently pivoting between low key and broad attempts at laughs. This would be perfectly fine if the more familiar and occasionally grounded approach still offered entertainment value but, unfortunately, it just leads to a dull runtime that's inexplicably light on real comedy.
The story was apparently inspired by the filmmaker's personal experience as a child of divorce, and while there are some decent insights and humorous observations culled from the director's trauma, none of it is developed enough. Outside of some very predictable turns involving Carter's love life and his parents' relationship, there really isn't much to the story. Certain threads end up going nowhere (Jessica Alba's character is particularly unnecessary) and one is constantly left feeling like they're waiting for the main plot to kick in -- even after the credits role.
On the upside, there are a few funny throwaway lines and quips here and there, and there is certainly some amusement to be had from the role reversal situation our protagonist finds himself in. As his mother and father become more and more immature and irresponsible, Carter essentially has to take on a parental role in their lives, and Adam Scott does a solid job of conveying his escalating frustration while playing the straight man to the rest of the film's slightly more exaggerated personalities. At the movie's best, he starts to come across as a Michael Bluth-esque character increasingly fed up with his family's shenanigans. Unfortunately though, in this instance, the rest of his family isn't quite quirky or volatile enough, making the contrast between them fall a little flat.
Joining Scott, is a strong collection of comedic actors, including Richard Jenkins, Catherine O'Hara, Amy Poehler, and Jane Lynch. The gang all does what they can with the mediocre material they have to work with, injecting a decent amount of personality into their characters, but no one really stands out. Though the flick doesn’t quite waste their talents, it does little to capitalize on them, and the director never really establishes a cohesive comedic tone, making a lot of the cast's attempts at humor feel happenstance and uneven.
Right down to its cutesy ambiguous ending, 'A.C.O.D.' desperately wants to be an insightful, charming indie comedy, but it never really finds a successful rhythm. Even the always reliable Adam Scott and Richard Jenkins can't do much to elevate the uneventful scripting. It's far from an unpleasant watch, though, and isolated bits do work well enough. Fans of the cast might be tempted to go ahead and take this disc down the aisle, but if the marriage doesn't work out, don't say I didn't warn you.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Paramount brings 'A.C.O.D.' to Blu-ray on a single BD-50 disc housed in a keepcase along with instructions for a Digital HD copy. After some skippable trailers, the disc transitions to a standard menu.
The movie is provided with a 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 transfer in the 1.78:1 aspect ratio. Nicely detailed and relatively pleasing, this is a solid image through and through.
Shot on the Arri Alexa, the digital source is clean and glossy throughout, though there is some marginal grain-like noise visible in some shots. Though not razor sharp, detail is good, offering strong clarity in textures, backgrounds, and facial features. Dimension and contrast are also strong in outdoor scenes, with a bright, deep picture. With that said, the image does look comparatively flat and dim in several indoor sequences. Colors are rendered well but veer toward a faintly orange look and lack the saturated punch and pop usually associated with contemporary comedies shot with digital cameras. Black levels are decent as well but do look a bit gray in nighttime scenes.
'A.C.O.D.' doesn't feature the sharpest or most colorful picture, but the modest visual style suits the content just fine and there are no glaring issues with the transfer.
The film is presented with an English DTS-HD MA 5.1 track, and a French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 track along with optional English, English SDH, French, and Spanish subtitles. Though it gets the job done, this is an exceedingly basic track that lacks much in the way of immersion or atmosphere.
Dialogue is clear but isn't quite as full-bodied as speech is on many other contemporary releases. The film's soundtrack features decent fidelity and stereo separation, spreading the music well across the front speakers. Unfortunately, outside of the songs and score, the rest of the soundstage is disappointingly small, offering a very tiny sense of space with only the bare minimum of background ambiance. Directionality with effects is very minimal and surround use is rare, leading to a very front heavy and simplistic mix. Dynamic range is adequate, but bass activity is negligible.
Outside of dialogue and music there really isn't much to this mix. Movies of this genre don't exactly call for bombastic tracks, but for a contemporary 5.1 mix, the tiny soundstage and basic design work here is underwhelming.
Paramount has put together a small collection of supplements, including a featurette and a few amusing fake PSAs. All of the special features are presented in 1080p with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound and the same subtitle options as the main feature.
'A.C.O.D.' is a fairly dull and forgettable comedy that remains faintly enjoyable thanks to its talented cast. The video transfer on this disc is good with no major issues, and though exceedingly basic, the audio mix gets the job done. While the assortment of special features is slim, the included PSAs are surprisingly entertaining. This is a decent release for a mediocre flick, and rather than committing to a purchase that might end in divorce, this disc is better off as a rental.