Hilarious Cast Elevates Mediocre ‘A.C.O.D.’

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CHICAGO – The incredibly talented men and women who make up the cast of “A.C.O.D.” make the relative failure of its script easier to bear. Just hearing brilliant actors like Richard Jenkins and Catherine O’Hara at each other’s throats or watching remarkably likable stars like Adam Scott and Mary Elizabeth Winstead figure out their relationship has enough charm to get one from lights down to credits roll. And the first hour of “A.C.O.D.” is pretty damn funny, allowing one to hope that it will develop into something truly memorable. For some reason, the theme of Sundance comedies this year (“In a World…,” “Afternoon Delight,” and this one) is non-endings as “A.C.O.D.” can’t follow through on its clever set-up.

Carter (Scott) thinks he has it all together. He has a successful restaurant, beautiful girlfriend (Winstead), and has maintained a tenuous peace between his long-divorced parents (Jenkins & O’Hara) for years now. His unknowingly fragile bubble is shattered when brother Trey (Clark Duke) announces his engagement to his relatively-new girlfriend. Not only does the idea that Trey would even want to engage in such a poisoned institution as marriage baffle Carter but he realizes that his acrimonious parents will have to be in the same room together (sometimes accompanied by dad’s new wife played by Amy Poehler and mom’s new beau played by Ken Howard) and Carter will be forced back into the role of peacekeeper.

Photo credit: The Film Arcade

The news sends Carter back to Dr. Judith (Jane Lynch), a woman he remembers as his family therapist during the divorce years. It turns out that Judith wasn’t really a doctor and actually used Carter to write a bestselling book called “Children of Divorce.” She changed the names but seeing Carter’s childhood in print shatters him even further, a situation not helped by the fact that Judith wants to do an update – “Adult Children of Divorce” (or “A.C.O.D.”). A beautiful fellow subject named Michelle (Jessica Alba) challenges Carter’s relationship and he basically cracks when he discovers something truly unwanted going down on a kitchen counter.

The plot of “A.C.O.D.” is relatively standard stuff (we’ve seen mainstream comedies with variations on weddings that drive unstable families over the edge in junk like “The Big Wedding”) but the cast is undeniably talented. Scott has never had a part this dense and entertaining. He’s in nearly every scene and proves he can carry a comedy, although one wishes Carter didn’t become such a straight man for most of the movie, losing his own personality to the sometimes sitcomish demands of the story. It’s a film with so many talented people that one forgets that the script isn’t really that good. No one delivers a line like “You’re pissing on our love parade” quite like Catherine O’Hara and scene-stealers like Lynch and Poehler, well, steal scenes.

Photo credit: The Film Arcade

The problem is that they’re all required to do quite a bit of heavy lifting narratively to make “A.C.O.D.” entertaining. Carter isn’t really that interesting a character – kind of whiny, kind of negative, and wholly unbelievable as a love interest for Winstead’s Lauren. Alba’s Michelle is entirely unnecessary and distracting. And no one has ever left a movie saying they wanted more Clark Duke.

And then there’s the non-ending. I won’t spoil it here but it’s bizarre that so many Sundance comedies set up character and concept and then go almost nowhere with it. Even another Sundance hit, “The Way, Way Back,” a movie I truly enjoyed, had some final act issues. The set-up is fun, but I wish Sundance comedies like “A.C.O.D.” had the punchline to match it.

A.C.O.D.” stars Adam Scott, Jane Lynch, Richard Jenkins, Catherine O’Hara, Amy Poehler, Jessica Alba, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Clark Duke, and Ken Howard. It was written by Ben Karlin & Stu Zicherman and directed by Zicherman. It will be released in Chicago on October 11, 2013.

HollywoodChicago.com content director Brian Tallerico

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