This review originally ran on January 29, 2013 as part of Film.com's coverage of the 2013 Sundance Film Festival.
Too rarely must we make the distinction between a romantic comedy and a relationship comedy. "A.C.O.D." isn't just an amusing example of the latter, but a remarkably sharp look at family dysfunction and its repercussions over the years.
Despite his parents' marriage memorably imploding on his ninth birthday, Carter (Adam Scott) is sure that he's a well-adjusted adult. He runs a successful restaurant, has a loving girlfriend (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and hardly has to bother with his parents, Hugh (Richard Jenkins) and Melissa (Catherine O'Hara), anymore. That is, until younger brother Trey (Clark Duke) impulsively pops the question and begs his brother to get both Mom and Dad to attend the wedding, a feat at which Carter succeeds all too well once the respectively remarried Mom and Dad begin to hit it off behind their spouses' backs.
Finding this all too much to take, Carter seeks out his childhood shrink, Dr. Judith (Jane Lynch), only to discover that she wasn't a psychologist, but was running a study on children of divorce at the time and is now eager to follow up with these subjects — these Adult Children of Divorce — years after the fact. She pitches it to Carter as an opportunity to prove just how level-headed he turned out to be, but this discovery of her original self-help book only further fuels his concerns that his parents have forever sabotaged his own capacity for long-term commitment.
It's the rare lead role for Adam Scott, who made solid work of both "The Vicious Kind" and "Friends with Kids." Reuniting with "Step Brothers" co-star Jenkins and "Parks & Recreation" cohort Amy Poehler, who plays Hugh's latest wife, his barely concealed neuroses here only further position him as heir apparent to Jack Lemmon's throne, with his efforts at tendering the peace not backfiring so much as regrettably overshooting the mark. Furthermore, he serves as the quietly panicked anchor to a formidable ensemble, with Jenkins and O'Hara exchanging barbs with welcome venom, and Lynch and Duke rounding out the ranks nicely with their more oblivious roles.
Credit first-time director and co-writer Stu Zicherman, himself an A.C.O.D., for digging credibly into Carter's psyche without being facile about his aversion to commitment or succumbing to the more belabored humiliation tactics of your average "Fockers" film. Speaking of which, the film's most egregious misstep is introducing Michelle (Jessica Alba), a fellow subject of Dr. Judith's study, as a potential mistress for Carter to pursue, thus following in his father's misguided footsteps. Alba herself isn't bad; she's simply saddled with a character who frequently feels less than vital to the proceedings.
More often than not, though, "A.C.O.D." proves to be both a solid debut for Zicherman and a worthy vehicle for Scott and company, one that provides plenty of awkward laughs and generally gives the American farce a good name again.
SCORE: 7.8 / 10