The Adjustment Bureau

As you stagger around bleary-eyed in the morning trying to get out the door, you realize that your keys are not in the cat bowl where they should be, nor are your shoes kicked in the corner where you’re certain they were last night. As the minutes tick by and you start to wonder if this is a result of the bottle of wine you finished off or early onset Alzheimers, you realize that either way you will most certainly be late for work. What you don’t know is that because you are seven minutes behind schedule, you will miss getting creamed by a rogue police car that is careening down your street in hot pursuit of a shoplifter who took off with an even hotter Big Gulp from the nearby 7-Eleven. Because fate intervened, you will not spend the next five months in a full body cast. You may be fired for being late for the sixth time this month, but at least you’ll have your health.

This is the premise behind The Adjustment Bureau, a new film adapted from a short story by sci-fi writer Philip K. Dick. Yes, the very same Dick who penned Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, which became the film noir classic Blade Runner. But don’t go into this movie expecting replicants or Harrison Ford; this film has so many influences that it’s hard to figure out what it wants to be when it grows up.

It starts out as The Candidate, with senate-hopeful and political golden boy Matt Damon about to win big in an election, only to have everything derailed by an unfortunate tabloid revelation that he mooned someone at a college reunion and the picture of his butt that shows up on the front page. This is enough for him to lose an election where he was leading by sixteen points? In an era where John Edwards can impregnate a lobbyist while cheating on his cancer-stricken wife and still run for vice-president? Mooning is the kind of prank that John Boehner would pull on Nancy Pelosi during a smoke break at the Capitol. I found this premise a little flimsy as a career-ender for a candidate.

Then it turns into a Julia Roberts-type romp where Matt and Emily Blunt meet-cute in a bathroom and it seems like it’s going to be a romantic comedy for a while, and then suddenly it becomes Mad Men in Black, where Roger Sterling and a bunch of Men With Hats are freeze framing people and readjusting their memories because True Love is not following the plan of The Chairman. The Men With Hats may be angels or they could be civil servants, and at this point I was hoping that The Chairman was going to end up being Don Draper, because if you’re going to look into the face of God, don’t you hope he’s going to look like Jon Hamm? Then it morphed into Inception where a series of doors opened up into other improbable locations, and apparently heaven is based in New York City because they kept ending up at Yankee Stadium and the Statue of Liberty. That is going to piss off a lot of Southern Baptists.

They had stolen the Marauder’s Map from the Harry Potter movies to track the lovers as they fled and there was also a helpful angel who I think was formerly employed to guide Warren Beatty in Heaven Can Wait. It ends on the very top of a tall building which may or may not be a lesser deck of the Empire State Building, but close enough for me to assume that it is an homage to Sleepless in Seattle. I was kind of expecting the lights in the windows to form a heart as the credits rolled.

I know there are no more original ideas; everything is lifted from somewhere else and then changed just enough to make it seem fresh (aren’t you sick of the word “fresh”?) First time director George Nolfi had a great concept to start with in the original story, but couldn’t seem to decide where to take it that lived up to the source material. I wish the adjustment bureau had gone to his house while he was typing and installed windows Vista on his computer so it kept crashing, thus avoiding this script. (It could have been done by a few of the lesser members of the bureau, maybe Pete and Harry.) And by the way, George, why are all your bureau people men? Do you think a chick couldn’t pull off the hat? Honestly, besides Emily Blunt, there were only two other women in this film and they are both frozen secretaries that Matt Damon rushes by and waves to, not realizing that their facial expressions haven’t changed. They could have used mannequins.

Ridiculous script aside, the cast is very good, with Matt Damon showing the playful side that has shown up on 30Rock. I’ve loved him since he first made up the names of his twelve fake brothers in Good Will Hunting (Marky, Ricky, Danny, Terry, Mikey, Davey, Timmy, Tommy, Joey, Robby, Johnny and Brian). He and Emily Blunt are great together, making me wish they had been in a different movie. By the way, Matt, I forgive you for The Bourne Supremacy – it’s not your fault. It’s not your fault.

Oh, yeah, the movie didn’t make me sick at all. Kind of forgot that’s what I was here for.

Barf Bag ranking: ZERO BAGS Which I suppose I should be happy about, but I’d trade a little queasiness for a better movie.

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