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‘A.C.O.D.’: Charms of Adam Scott, Amy Poehler lost in whiny comedy

Carter (Adam Scott) tries negotiate truce between his sniping parents (Richard Jenkins Catherine O’Hara) “A.C.O.D.”

Carter (Adam Scott) tries to negotiate a truce between his sniping parents (Richard Jenkins and Catherine O’Hara) in “A.C.O.D.”

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‘A.C.O.D.’ ★★

Carter Adam Scott

Hugh Richard Jenkins

Melissa Catherine O’Hara

Sondra Amy Poehler

Film Arcade presents a film directed by Stuart Zicherman and written by Zicherman and Ben Karlin. Running time: 87 minutes. Rated R (for language and brief sexual content). Opens Friday at Landmark Century Cinema.

Updated: November 12, 2013 6:07AM

Adam Scott and Amy Poehler love each other on “Parks and Recreation.”

Adam Scott and Amy Poehler despise one another in “A.C.O.D.”

“Parks and Rec” is a lot more fun.

One of the most awkwardly titled comedies in recent years is also one of the more forgettable. Despite an excellent ensemble cast of comedic treasures as well as veterans of drama taking a walk down a lighter aisle, “A.C.O.D” (i.e. “Adult Children of Divorce”) delivers only a few sporadic chuckles amidst a slew of clunky scenes in which various members of an extended dysfunctional family behave rudely and say mean things to one another.

Who are we supposed to root for here? Scott’s Carter, a whiny, self-pitying twit who can’t get over the fact his long-divorced parents despise each other? Carter’s womanizing cad of a father? His shrew of a mother? His creepy little brother?

How about none of the above.

Carter runs a trendy, successful restaurant, and he has a beautiful, understanding yoga instructor girlfriend (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). Pretty sweet deal, right?

Despite his successes, Carter’s a tightly wound little fellow, the kind of guy that would fall for the ol’ joy buzzer handshake every time and practically leap out of his skin while crying, “I told you to quit it!”

The springs on Carter’s inner workings start popping off when his younger brother Trey (Clark Duke, the kid in big glasses who showed up near the end of “The Office”) announces he’s getting married — and he wants Mom and Dad, who hate each other and haven’t spoken since their bitter divorce 20 years ago, to attend the ceremony. It’s up to Carter to negotiate some kind of temporary cease-fire.

So off we go. The great Richard Jenkins is Carter’s dad Hugh, a leering jerk now married to Amy Poehler’s Sondra, a Nordic ice queen with no discernible positive qualities. Catherine O’Hara is Carter’s mother Melissa, another off-putting character who barely seems to know her sons, let alone love them. There’s also a fiancé, the fiancé’s family and Melissa’s husband Gary (Ken Howard), who’s such a normal, kind man you wonder why he doesn’t quietly exit the room during another family fight and just keep on walking until he’s in the next county.

They all get entangled in a sitcom-level plot complication that defies everything we’ve come to know about these characters. It seems to occur mostly so Scott can do his trademark, perfectly timed facial expressions or one-liners whenever he’s shocked, appalled or insulted.

“I love you like a son,” Hugh says to Carter during a rare moment of sharing.

“I AM your son,” Carter points out. Hugh shrugs.

Jane Lynch scores some laughs playing Dr. Judith, a wildly inappropriate therapist who wrote a book about Carter and other children of divorce and is working on the sequel. As Dr. Judith points out, Carter’s generation is the first for which divorce is at least as common as marriages that last til death do the parents part — making them emotional pioneers of a sort.

It’s too bad “A.C.O.D.” doesn’t do much with that premise, other than give us a lot of scenes in which Carter argues with family members or complains yet again about his horrible parents. Hey chief: look around. You have an amazing girlfriend and a hot restaurant. While you’re busy wallowing, most of your peers are envying your life.

In the few scenes Scott shares with Poehler, they snipe at one another. That’s it. You want to see these two exceedingly likable actors shine with some well-written material, go with “Parks and Rec.” I’ll be watching episodes of that show on demand long after I’ve forgotten the name of that bland movie they were both in back in 2013.


Twitter: @richardroeper

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