The Adjustment Bureau, VERY loosely adapted from a Philip K. Dick short story, stars Matt Damon as a young politician who meets and quickly falls for a beguiling British dancer played by Emily Blunt. Unfortunately, their series of chance meetings are not part of the cosmic plan for the two of them, and Damon soon finds himself at first confronted and eventually pursued by the “adjustment bureau,” a mysterious group of fedora-wearing gentlemen who insinuate they are not quite human, and are in fact responsible for making sure everything that happens on earth goes along with a master plan created by their unseen “chairman.”

This is a pretty cool, high-concept idea, and I think it could have made a really good movie. In fact, it almost comes close here. I was pretty on board with this film for its first half or so. For one thing, the chemistry between Damon and Blunt is tremendous, and I found myself seriously invested in their relationship – I would have gladly watched a romantic drama or comedy about these two, even without all the sci-fi trappings. But even when that stuff first starts popping up, it’s still sorta neat for awhile…until you allow yourself to really start thinking about just what the hell is going on.

What ultimately sinks this movie for me is that it is frustratingly vague or downright duplicitous about the adjustment bureau and their powers. I get that they are meant to be enigmatic, and I don’t mind that. And while it’s EXTREMELY silly, I can even live with the fact that their one weakness is water and that they all wear magic hats – in fact, this is arguably one of the best things about the movie, as not only did it give birth to the Hat Damon meme, but it also means this is the only action movie you’ll ever see where someone yells “watch out, he’s got a hat” with absolutely no sense of irony.

What bothers me, though, is that the movie can’t be bothered to adequately present a consistent set of rules or behaviors for this group. At times they seem completely omnipresent and all-powerful, at other times…not. Their abilities and limitations are completely dependent on the needs of the script at that moment. Let me give you an example. Damon’s character first discovers their existence after they freeze all of time except for him, and he walks in on them tampering with the brain of his close friend. Now, I’m not really sure why Damon wasn’t frozen along with everyone else, and that’s annoying enough. But for the rest of the movie, there are a number of scenes where the Adjustment Bureau are pursuing Damon, and they seem to have forgotten that THEY CAN FREEZE TIME!! Why do they never do this again?? Sure seems like it would come in handy. On top of that, Damon is hardly some mastermind employing genius plans and mind-games to outwit them. He stumbles onto their existence, and then continues to elude and defeat them not through any real effort of his own, but more because these guys are apparently terrible at their jobs and keep bungling everything. How have these guys been running our world for centuries? Throughout the course of the film they are presented as some sort of cosmic Keystone Cops. It’s surprising dozens of people don’t discover their existence every day.

As the movie wears on, this annoying lack of adherence to its own logic just grows more and more glaring, until finally the movie peters out with a lame, love-conquers-all ending that suggests the writer had painted himself into a corner and just figured a mushy, feel-good ending would send everyone home happy. It’s too bad cause, like I said, there was definite potential here, and the Damon and Blunt characters definitely deserved a little better. If I was on the Adjustment Bureau, I would re-write the plan to allow for a simple romantic tale involving the two, without all the mystical hooey.

As long as I got to wear one of those magic hats.

This review was originally posted at Trevor Likes Movies on July 30th, 2011.

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