Most, if not all, romantic comedies require a certain amount of neurosis in their main character, in order to drive the story forward and fuel humorous possibilities. The level of neurosis must be exaggerated enough to create funny situations, but not so overblown that the situations feel contrived. Finding this tonal equation makes the rom-com one of the more challenging film genres to write. Stu Zicherman’s debut feature A.C.O.D., which stands for Adult Children of Divorce, has a lot going for it but ultimately lacks this delicate balance and ends up feeling forced. Adam Scott is charming in the lead role of Carter, a man trying to keep his dysfunctional, broken family together through his younger brother’s wedding. When he discovers that he was an unknowing childhood participant in a book by a pop psychologist (played by Jane Lynch), it unleashes the neurosis he has kept buried for most of his life. Much wackiness ensues but little of it feels germane to Carter’s issues.

Most of the outlandish conduct exhibited by Carter’s family seems too easy to either accept or dismiss, and it is never made clear what it is about his psychology that makes him escalate these situations rather than ignore or defuse them. In fact, the motivations of all the characters seem more tied to the needs of the film’s farcical formula than to any real human behavior. Of course, all broad comedies are inherently unnatural, but the great ones exaggerate behaviors we can recognize in ourselves or in others. Since this film is exploring the effects of divorce on grown children--which should be universal to entire generation of people--something is clearly wrong if we can’t fully empathize with Carter’s plight.  The cast of A.C.O.D. makes the movie easy to watch despite its flaws. But, as much fun as Catherine O'Hara and Richard Jenkins are as Carter’s mom and dad, the rest of the talented ensemble is woefully underutilized.

Directed by Stu Zicherman
Produced by Ben Karlin, Tim Perell, and Teddy Schwarzman

Written by Ben Karlin and Stu Zicherman

With: Adam Scott, Richard Jenkins, Catherine O'Hara, Amy Poehler, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Clark Duke, Ken Howard, Valerie Tian, Sarah Burns, Jessica Alba, and Jane Lynch

Cinematography: John Bailey
Editing: Jeffrey Wolf
Music: Nick Urata

Runtime: 88 min
Release Date: 23 January 2013
Aspect Ratio: 1.85 : 1