With his sex life with wife Helen (Rosemarie DeWitt, "Rachel Getting Married") almost nonexistent, Don Truby (Adam Sandler) turns to Internet porn, but when he borrows high schooler son Chris's (Travis Tope, HBO's 'Boardwalk Empire') laptop, he's shocked by what he finds. Patricia Beltmeyer (Jennifer Garner, "Juno") audits her daughter's every keystroke, but Brandy (Kaitlyn Dever, "The Spectacular Now," "Short Term 12") creates a new online identity and forms a deep bond with depressed teen Tim Mooney (Ansel Elgort, "The Fault in Our Stars"). Tim's dad Kent (Dean Norris, TV's 'Breaking Bad,' 'Under the Dome') is reeling from his wife's abandonment, but finds new hope with single mom Joan Clint (Judy Greer, "The Descendents") until he discovers how she's practically pimping her celebrity-obsessed daughter Hannah (Olivia Crocicchia, "Palo Alto") on her home made website. Hannah's fellow cheerleader Allison Doss's (Elena Kampouris, "Labor Day") low self esteem has made her anorexic and a doormat to popular Brandon (Will Peltz, "In Time") in "Men, Women & Children."
I didn't like this movie when it was called "Disconnect," and cowriter (with Erin Cressida Wilson, "Chloe")/director Jason Reitman's ("Juno," "Labor Day") adaptation of Chad Kultgen's novel lays on pretension masquerading as deep thought for an even less convincing mix. While some of the players are fine (it's always intriguing to see Adam Sandler take on a dramatic role), others sink (Jennifer Garner's overbearing mother sings two notes) and the overlapping stories have all been done before and better in films like "Trust" and this year's "Palo Alto." Reitman's discourse on how social media impacts human relationships is not only contradictory (an intense connection is made between two teenagers), the tales used to illustrate the message, such as one on body image, would apply just as easily in a pre-Internet age. As for the issue of intimacy butting heads with computerized devices, Spike Jonze's "Her" so masterfully embraced the issue, films like this one just fall shorter.
It doesn't help that time and time again, Reitman flashes to the Spacecraft Voyager, whose Carl Sagan chosen collection of human experience has been transmitting in outer space since 1977. Emma Thompson's somber narration is meant as a profound commentary on humankind's need to make contact and the hopes we hang on our technological reach, but in comparison to the overwrought obviousness of what's going on back on Earth it all comes across as a bit silly.
There are some small pleasures to be found, namely in the lost loneliness Kampouris brings to Allison, Helen's seduction by 'Secretluvur' (Dennis Haysbert, TV's President David Palmer on '24') and Sandler's almost scary refusal to acknowledge it, but "Men, Women & Children" fails to make a connection.
Robin did not see this film.
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