I get the feeling "The Adjustment Bureau" was created by an improv group
soliciting a mishmash of ideas from its audience: It's a thriller! And a
romance! Plus science fiction! And it has hats with magical powers!
Instead, its genesis lies in a short story by sci-fi author Philip K. Dick. For some reason, Hollywood keeps raiding his bibliography, although his material has clicked on the screen arguably three times: "Blade Runner," "Minority Report" and "Total Recall." The rest of the time, it doesn't: "Paycheck," "Screamers," "Impostor" ...
The difference between the two groups is the skill level of the director — guys experienced enough to understand Dick was on a lot of great drugs and, therefore, prone to writing a lot of hoo-hah that has no business on a big screen — and "The Adjustment Bureau" marks the first time at bat for George Nolfi, screenwriter of the second and third entries in the "Ocean's Eleven" and "The Bourne Identity" franchises, respectively.
Matt Damon is idealistic New York politician David Norris, whose past campaigns have been haunted by the party days of his past. Despite his high profile, he’s utterly alone in the big city, but feels fate has pushed him into a men’s restroom, literally, where he meets the fetching modern dancer Elise (Emily Blunt), and falls hard.
Problem is, their relationship is not part of The Plan, so they’re being chased by members of the titular shadowy organization who want to right the wrong so the future can play out as intended. Says who? Doesn’t matter; again, Dick could trip with the best of ’em. The bureau’s agents stick out like sore thumbs because they’re dressed like “Mad Men” background players (allowing that series’ John Slattery to get maximum use out of his wardrobe). Oh, and because their hats allow them to disrupt the space-time continuum or something by hopping from one remote location to another simply by going through doors.
It all looks nice, as the story unfolds (too slowly) among not the grit and grime of the Big Apple, but amid its Art Deco architectural treasures, lending it a feeling that it could take place half a century ago, rather than in the now. Its elements, however, are not as constructed so skillfully. Thomas Newman is an excellent composer, but his score — quite nice on its own — does not match this material. Blunt is a fine actress, but pushed so far to the margins, her second billing seems unearned.
Nolfi’s freshman effort doesn’t glide along on confidence, but takes careful, uneasy steps. Only in the last 30 minutes does it realize it’s time to start sprinting (and to the tune of a hopped-up remix of Sarah Vaughn crooning “Fever,” no less). Too little, too late. I didn’t dislike the film, but its high points are so underwhelming, so lacking in energy, I’d adjust your schedule and wait for home video. —Rod Lott