*THROWBACK REVIEW* MEN, WOMEN AND CHILDREN REVIEW

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DO. NOT. BOTHER.

Jason Reitman pens a delightfully dull and dreary commentary on the woes of social media.

Certainly not what I expected. Which worked in one aspect BUT failed on so many others.

The recent spate of trailers seemed to market this as a romantic drama seen through the platform of social media i.e. Facebook, Tumblr, etc.

BUT all I got was a slow, dark and sombre social drama that made some fair points but didn’t really back them up with any substance, tension or story.

Merely a movie of moments. A shame considering the talent.

So what is it about? A group of high school teenagers and their parents attempt to navigate the many ways the Internet has changed their relationships, self-image and how they communicate.

It really does sound as boring as you think. BUT it’s not a complete disaster.

The opening sequence was quite strange. A visually stunning but unnecessary tracking shot of a satellite travelling through the solar system. Eric Steelberg’s cinematography was superb (in this sequence). The wonderful Emma Thompson provided her vocal gravitas to the appropriately titled character, “Narrator”.

However, she soon blathers on about how sounds and videos were recorded in a capsule during 1977 to send out as a welcome message to extra terrestrials. Interesting. But what is the relevance?

None, apparently. It didn’t really fit in with the message or the tone of the film. Granted, the songs and messages highlighted how far we have progressed technologically to a minor extent BUT we still haven’t contacted extra-terrestrials. That we know of. If there are any. If we care. And if there are, they obviously didn’t like our noises.

BUT what does that have to do with social media impacting the everyday?

It felt a little pretentious for my liking and certainly didn’t get things going.

It eventually zipped along and was watchable. BUT the story lines and content just didn’t have enough for the two hour running length.

The only statement that I felt Reitman made well was the desensitisation and over-sexualisation of teenagers.

The scene in which a group of 16 year old cheerleaders are talking about how many men they have slept with and supposed sex acts they have inflicted was uncomfortable to listen to BUT all too true.

The fact that it is so easy for young teens to access porn and sexual images in this digital age paired with their ever-increasing hunger to grow up quicker was and still is a scary prospect.

Olivia Crocicchia was very good as the deluded Hannah Clint. A ruthless and overly ambitious young lady who will do what it takes to get what she wants. Her relationship with her mother Judy Greer was captured well and it was interesting to see the gradual change from something that seemed so innocent as a little modelling site soon becoming something much more.

Some of the story lines excelled, while others merely gave us a taster and then fizzled out into nothing really.

Kaitlyn Dever and Ansel Elgort played the outsider high school couple well, I suppose. BUT it wasn’t original or interesting. Their story line was a little stale. Hiding in the library and sneaking out to cuddle by a waterfall or river. I can’t remember. Lost interest. The closing minutes certainly came to a tense, if predictable, finale.

Jennifer Garner played Dever’s overprotective mother perfectly. Not enough of her. I was determined to see if there was more to her obsession with controlling and knowing her daughter’s whereabouts.

BUT no! The world is a terrible place and the Internet is worse. Her embargoes on the household Wi-Fi and mobile phone tracking apps certainly hinted at the cons of digital gadgetry.

The whole fear of online predators is still an important issue. Even more so with trolling and cyberbullying. BUT Reitman doesn’t even bother penning a story line featuring this shocking new development.

The whole affair felt quite dated. This would have been a lot more hard-hitting a decade ago, to be honest, when instant messaging and blogging had first popped up in the domain.

Dean Norris’ football loving dad arguing with Englert for dropping out of the team after his mum flew the coop was predictable guff. Englert’s video game obsession felt dated. I mean World of Warcraft is still a highly popular game BUT surely there’s a new one. Plus it wasn’t really explored that well.

J.K. Simmons was wasted in his role as the father in Elena Kampouris’ bulimic daughter story line. Her situation was one that should have been covered a little better. Hiding in her room trying not to eat while talking to online forums about fighting hunger pains was crazy.

Her story ended quite abruptly after hitting a crucial juncture and deserved more screen time, especially with vulnerable teens that are constantly battling with image and oversexualized music videos, media coverage and fashion magazines.

Adam Sandler was finally given another serious role and he did quite well but his character was so bland. The whole porn desensitising the average male debate was a valid point but who wants to see Mr Deeds getting hot and heavy while watching smut? Not me.

Reitman raised a good point in how teenage lads in particular will be looking for a particular woman after being subjected to such videos. Sandler’s son developing a crude taste for domination videos was a taboo that should have been explored. BUT Sandler’s character never confronts him properly about it.

In fact, he sees his son’s videos and has a bash himself. A little dark and comical BUT the tone didn’t really fit. I couldn’t tell how serious Reitman was trying to be. The film went too serious one second and satirical the next.

Sandler’s storyline was mediocre at best. It had a fair point about how couples lose intimacy and seek extra marital companionship online. The ease in what you can do on the Internet is a crazy and unsettling thing.

The affair sequences were certainly different BUT didn’t really amount to anything which was surprising, considering they “confronted” each other at the end. It just infuriated me because they seemed to blame their lost innocence from 9/11. Emphasizing how it changed everything.

I mean it could have been inappropriate timing that they changed as the world changed at that moment but I felt the reference lazy and unnecessary.

The sequences in which we see what people are texting, along with video inserts, was a nice touch. Especially when you see what people are texting about others who are in the same room.

BUT it’s hardly original. Hollyoaks milked that speech bubble text talk thing to death.

It made some good points BUT ones I’ve seen dealt with a whole lot better. It felt like a missed opportunity to expand, debate and explore new developments and how families are growing up with them.

It’s watchable BUT if you’re looking for hard-hitting, thought provoking Internet-related drama, I recommend Cyber Bully.

2.5/5 (Just)

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*THROWBACK REVIEW* BLENDED REVIEW

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If you still like or even love Adam Sandler movies, then this one is for you. For everybody else, move on. There has been a lot of cynicism and “hate-watching” surrounding his last entries. A good portion not completely unjustified. (That’s My Boy, Jack and Jill and Grown Ups 2, I’m looking at you!)

Let’s be honest, they are guilty pleasures. (Apart from Sandler’s more serious acting ventures; Reign Over Me and Punch Drunk Love). The story lines were always predictable, corny and OTT but as long as they were funny, I was happy to let that slide. I know, me letting a film slide?

So what did I make of Sandler’s latest offering? One that seemed to take a huge hit at the box office? Well, I can’t believe I’m saying this but it’s actually not that bad. A vast improvement from the Grown Ups movies (I did enjoy the first one. What?). I went in, anticipating the worst and came out surprised.

So what’s it about? After a bad blind date, a man (Sandler) and woman (Drew Barrymore) find themselves stuck together at a family resort in Africa, where their attraction grows as their respective kids benefit from the burgeoning relationship. Awww . . . yuck.

Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler reunite for their third outing (The Wedding Singer/50 First Dates). The chemistry is still there and they work well together yet again. You can see at certain points that they are improvising by the cheeky grins and little jibes.

The plot set up is incredibly lazy in how the families end up in Africa. Even when I heard it, I thought why they don’t just meet up by accident? Still corny but a lot less ridiculous than Barrymore’s mate (Wendi McLendon-Covey – Rules of Engagement) giving up her vacation with Sandler’s boss and kids (the number of kids that make up the two families – yeah that’s right). Long winded and stupid.

Anyhoo, we get the set up and see both families all with their neuroses and issues; Bella Thorne battling with her sporty persona crushing her femininity as she keeps being mistaken for a boy, Barrymore’s dicey divorce and Sandler coping with loss and grief. Inevitably, both sets of kids are in need of a mother/father figure.

The divorce arguments contribute nothing to the movie as they are so predictable and you know the inevitable will happen. What was well done was how both families dealt with the issue of death and loss. A scene in which Emma Fuhrmann’s character Espn (named after Sandler’s favourite sports channel – Tut, tut, tut) saves a seat and plate for her mum is touching. Corny but touching. A well-acted scene between her and Sandler was unexpected but endearing. For the cynics, a big no, no but for everyone else, very good.

It’s not perfect. Certain jokes fall flat as a dead zebra carcass. A joke in which Barrymore struggles to carry her son and keeps bumping his head against the wall, while funny the first time, soon dies a death when she keeps doing it. If not for a punchline from Sandler, it would have been a complete write off. The inevitable ‘getting together’ of Barrymore and Sandler will always be hanging over moments where they walk away or hurt each other’s feelings.

However, there are some cracking moments and to be honest, it was the one liners that got me. Terry Crews (The Expendables/Brooklyn Nine Nine) pops up, Michael Jackson thrusting and bursting out into song with his African choir in tow every time the movie looks like its slackening. Hilarious. Some might find them irritating, I thought it was brilliant.

Along with Crews, there are a few Sandler stalwarts that pop up and provide a good old chuckle. Shaquille O’Neal as his crazy work colleague, Kevin Nealon (Weeds) as the horny vacationer and a cameo from Allen Covert (Mr Deeds/Wedding Singer/Anger Management). Shame the Schneider/Sandler cameos stopped. Was there a fall out or something? Or did they both hate each other’s movies?

Joel McHale’s (Community) character was very stocky and generic as Barrymore’s ex. The kids were irritating to begin with, but I think that was the point. They soon grow on you, eventually. Well they have to, I guess. Alyvia Alyn Lind was adorable and came out with some of the more surprising quips that got everybody chuckling.

It was great to see a Sandler film actually use some people from the community and actual country they are filming in, who get to deliver some cheeky punts at the tourists. A joke involving Brad Beckham’s resemblance to a hobbit had me in stitches.

It’s corny, cheesy, ridiculously OTT and predictable but it’s funny, at times endearing and better than you think. If you’re a cynic who likes their comedies subtle and clever, then firstly why are you reading this? Secondly, if you’re a struggling Sandler film aficionado, you might be surprised. I was.

3/5