Review: 'A.C.O.D.'

(Three stars)

Stu Zicherman has some issues. And the co-writer/director would like to share them with you in his filmmaking debut, "A.C.O.D." That stands for "Adult Children of Divorce," a demographic big enough to ensure this indie comedy a wide audience.

Of course, it doesn't hurt when your first film -- a dry-witted comedy -- stars Adam Scott, Richard Jenkins, Catherine O'Hara, Amy Poehler and Jane Lynch, among others. Scott plays Carter, a 40-pushing fella who remains more screwed up by his parents' divorce than he's willing to admit to himself or anyone else.

But it's hard to stay in denial when you discover that your "therapist" (Lynch) isn't a therapist at all, but a researcher who used you as a case study in a bestselling pop-psychology book: "Children of Divorce: A National Epidemic, A Broken Generation."

Smelling a lucrative sequel, Dr. Judith hatches "Adult Children of Divorce" and begins needling her now-grown subjects (also including a don't-mess-with-me Jessica Alba) for juicy details of their interpersonal issues. Carter remains determined to prove he has none: To clear the air for the wedding of his kid brother Trey (Clark Duke), Carter tricks his mortal-enemy parents (Jenkins and O'Hara) into a summit meeting. The results -- and Carter's ever-more-awkward commitment-phobic floundering with girlfriend Lauren (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) -- only compound his neuroses.

Zicherman and co-screenwriter Ben Karlin ("The Daily Show with Jon Stewart") make plenty of hay from divorce damages, beginning with a film-opening flashback to Carter's core trauma: the ninth-birthday party at which the cops arrived to break up his parents' fighting. "You have turned a nine-year marriage into a hundred-year war," the son tells his parents. Scott's withering remarks and deadpan reactions recall Michael Bluth of "Arrested Development," though part of the fun here is seeing Scott tangle with his "Parks and Recreation" co-star Poehler, who plays Jenkins' second wife and mother to two future "A.C.O.D."s.

Restaurateur Carter becomes reduced to asking his kitchen staff, "Am I living in a shell of insecurity and approval-seeking?" It's not a rhetorical question, but it might as well be. "A.C.O.D." hums along nicely as it diagnoses what Dr. Judith calls "the least-parented, least-nurtured generation -- ever." It's funny without being broad, thanks to a fine ensemble (O'Hara is particularly funny at being cluelessly offensive), and Zicherman cultivates a hip, if not hipster, tone abetted by Nick Urata's score and an NPR-friendly Sarah Vowell cameo.

Rated R for language and brief sexual content. One hour, 30 minutes.


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