The Adjustment Bureau (2011)

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Content written by Tony Macklin. Originally published on March 10, 2011 on tonymacklin.net.

The Adjustment Bureau should be titled The Demolition Bureau. It takes Philip K. Dick's story and blows it up.

One of course realizes that in Hollywood literature is passe. The late Philip K. Dick was a popular and renowned writer of science fiction, who told unique, compelling stories. His Blade Runner and Minority Report were made into successful movies in 1982 and 2002.

Dick's story The Adjustment Team was published in 1954. But the movie The Adjustment Bureau only trades on Dick's name. All else is shoved aside by George Nolfi, who directed and wrote the screenplay.

Nolfi's version of The Adjustment Whatever is a lightweight, sci-fi entertainment. It's a nice diversion.

But Nolfi's version is more Dr. Suess than Philip K. Dick. It's The Cat in the Sci-fi Hat. Hats are all over the pates, and doors and door handles are everywhere.

Of course, neither hats nor doors are in Dick's story.

Nolfi makes slight reference to the germ of the story -- life is controlled by forces other than accident.

But Nolfi's movie basically is a love story. David Norris (Matt Damon) meets Elise (Emily Blunt), and they fall for each other. But they are not supposed to be together.

The world is run by the rule of a Chairman -- perhaps cosmic, perhaps societal -- and his "case workers" who make sure people are following their allotted destinies.

Since David and Elise are not following their predestined futures, the case workers must break them apart. Will love prevail against the powers-that-be?

If that doesn't sound like Philip K. Dick, it's not.

Nolfi's changes are shameless. He even changes the characters' names. The short story's Ed Fletcher becomes David Norris. In the story Ed is an insurance salesman; Nolfi changes him to a politician. Yeah, we don't have enough of them.

Ed is married to Ruth, not chasing Elise. Dick's story is not a love story -- his couple is married. [Dick was married five times.]

And the dog who begins the whole process doesn't even exist in the movie. The credits can't say no animal was harmed in this movie. The dog was obliterated.

But Nolfi still uses Dick's name. In the credits, a product placement person is listed. Philip Dick is turned into a product.

One of the credited coproducers is Electric Shepherd Productions, which is a company of Dick's two daughters. "Daddy wouldn't care about his plot or his characters."

The movie at least is somewhat entertaining.

Matt Damon is formidable as the impulsive David. See Matt run. And run. And talk. And run. And run -- in a hat.

David's relationship with Elise is based on intelligence, and Emily fits the bill. Anthony Mackie is solid as the flexible case worker, and Terence Stamp adds ominous force as the case worker called "the Hammer."

In The Adjustment Bureau, Nolfi takes Dick's vision and runs with it, dropping pages along the way, until he's left with only the title page. Which he tears in half.

Such is movie Adjustment.


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