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Movie review: The Adjustment Bureau leaves little to rave about

By Zac Schon
On April 20, 2011


Fresh off the heels of Inception, The Adjustment Bureau takes a stab at recreating the compelling feeling that could best be described by a Keanu Reeves as "whoa" with Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, and John Slattery. The movie shoots for a mental thriller, as the youngest member of Congress and presidential hopeful David Norris (Damon) falls in love with a talented ballerina (Blunt) and reaches constant conflict at every step of the pursuit from forces that he cannot fight, the Adjustment Bureau.

Overall this movie had a feeling that left an impression on you like a piece of sidewalk you stepped over four blocks ago or like a boring sandwich that you had for lunch during the winter in 7th grade. I left the theater trying to remember what was exactly good about this movie, as it had my attention a good portion of the time, but couldn't conjure a single thought as to why.

So, let's explore the plot a bit more in order to be able to so we can make sense of how such an attention gripping movie can leave anyone so forgetful of its existence a mere two minutes later.

A man has a group of divine beings (which are hinted at to be angels—a religious angle, blah!) watching and altering reality at every turn; every conversation and spilled cup of coffee is planned by these ever-obedient Adjusters. Right away, this would lead some people off to cheer, as we find a movie that deals with free choice over predestination. What would make this better than the already gold premise? How about if the main character can interact with these beings? Fabulous! That means the audience can identify with the character as he battles his destiny controlling nemesis.

Up to this point I thought, "Great, a solid story of man dealing with uncontrollable forces." Then the producer upped the ante by showing how these Adjusters can use a series of doors to cut from one part of the city to the next in an instant (hence, the Inception feeling with the altered reality.)

The next question you're probably asking is, "why did it receive such a poor marking?" For starters, let's take a look at the characters: you would think with Slattery (Roger Sterling in Mad Men) you would get quality, but I felt this respectable actor brought a small portion of cheese with him to the set, as the rest of acting staff brought blah, meh, and pallets full of mediocre performance with lack of conviction in performance. Ouch.

The love story was farfetched, with a case of creepy unrequited love that one could only define as "stalkerish." What about when they finally come together? A lack of conditions to truly foster any sort of relationship makes you wonder how they would go to such lengths for each other over a few moments of romance, considering how late into the movie the development of love emerges.

However, like many mass-produced Hollywood movies, the true quality failures are the endings. So, we will look at the recipe of this piece: first we will add three cups of great concept, two cups of identifiable character mixed with two tablespoons of epic human struggle and let them sit together to culminate into something great that has potential to be a classic. When those three ingredients fully mix together over months, if not years, in some talented writer's head, you want to take one whole Matt Damon with a rotten performance, one whole industry of cheesy characters, 14 gallons of mediocrity, and then finally take any remaining integrity that you may find in the mix and replace it with a 100% dumbed-down ending containing strong religious implications.

Take this final mix, and let it sit for 106 minutes and enjoy a spectacle that you will literally forget after you go to the bathroom or check your phone when the movie is done. Overall, I give this movie a C- (or 2/5 stars) on the basis of it having a few good ideas, but throwing them out in the name of mass-produced cinema.

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