Film review: ‘Men, Women & Children’ gets hysterical about the Internet

Jennifer Garner’s character stalks her own daughter’s every move online. Creepy.

One and a half stars

Men, Women & Children Adam Sandler, Jennifer Garner, Rosemarie DeWitt, Ansel Elgort. Directed by Jason Reitman. Rated R. Opens Friday.

Digital is dangerous in Men, Women & Children, the latest and by far the worst film by Jason Reitman (Juno, Up in the Air). The Internet makes it easier for a bored married couple (Rosemarie DeWitt and Adam Sandler) to cheat on each other. It allows a paranoid mother (Jennifer Garner) to monitor every move that her daughter (Kaitlyn Dever) makes, and even to delete communication from boys before the poor kid can see the texts. It encourages another mom (Judy Greer) to create a sleazy website for her daughter (Olivia Crocicchia), selling racy photos of her in the hope of kick-starting her acting career. Another kid (Travis Tope) has been warped by Internet porn. Yet another kid (Ansel Elgort) is addicted to online video games. Still another kid (Elena Kampouris) finds people in chat rooms who encourage her anorexia.

Adapted from a novel by cult author Chad Kultgen, Men Women & Children strands a host of fine actors (Sandler has never been better, or more restrained) in a sprawling, tone-deaf jeremiad. Individually, most of the intertwined storylines are faintly ludicrous; collectively, they amount to one long, hysterical plea for everyone to disconnect, as if any of these problems (adultery, anorexia, sexual dysfunction) are Internet-specific. Reitman gilds the lily by covering the screen with colorful bubbles depicting everyone’s text messages, as if they’re hijacking everyone’s oxygen. He’s not even 40 yet, but this clueless movie feels like the work of a perplexed octogenarian who’s just signed up for his first AOL account.

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