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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Men, Women & Children (Blu-ray)
Men, Women & Children (Blu-ray)
Paramount // R // January 13, 2015 // Region A
List Price: $39.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Ryan Keefer | posted January 15, 2015 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

It seems like every eight to fourteen months, someone decides to put out a film that touches on the technology of the day and its impact on society and relationships in a variety of environments, featuring an ensemble of familiar faces to many households. For me, one that comes to mind immediately in Disconnect. And with Men, Women & Children, we have a young, creative voice tackling this, so the results should be encouraging.

From the novel by Chad Kultgen, a screenplay was adapted by Erin Cressida Wilson and Jason Reitman (Labor Day), the latter of whom directed. Set in Texas, the focus is on several families. Don (Adam Sandler, Grown Ups) and Helen Truby (Rosemarie DeWitt, Touchy Feely) are in a loveless marriage and lie in bed with each other and their iPads every night. They have a son in Chris (Travis Trope) who is addicted to pornhub and when girls develop an interest in them, he has difficulty "relating" to them. This is true when he gets into a relationship with Hannah (Olivia Crochiccia), whose mother Joan (Judy Greer, Playing For Keeps) promotes a website with her daughter that borders a touch on exploitation. Joan starts seeing Kent Mooney (Dean Norris, Max Payne), whose son Tim (Ansel Elgort, The Fault in Our Stars) was a football star but recently quit and has immersed himself into online gaming. Tim starts seeing Brandy (Kaitlyn Dever, J. Edgar), whose mother Patricia (Jennifer Garner, Dallas Buyers Club) is some sort of internet safety advocate, to the point of being Big Brother over her daughter.

There may be a plotline or two that I missed but that is generally the familiar faces that you will find in Men, Women & Children, which sends the same way as it starts, with the Voyager satellite plugging away to give some sense of how miniscule we are when it comes to the universe, or perhaps how many of the kids in the movie think they have some sort of grasp on the technology that they possess, when they really have no idea. Regardless, the idea is nice but the execution of Men, Women & Children from top to bottom is odd.

From a performance perspective, things are…decent I think. The kids leave a larger imprint than the adults, for obvious reasons. Elgort continues to impress in the limited number of roles than I have seen him in, and his chemistry with Dever is good. Crochiccia is decent, and Elena Kampouris plays the innocent yet damn near anorexic Allison who seems to be driven by things around her without having the understanding of the risks that things like that have when you subject yourself to them. More on that in a minute. As far as the adults go, things are a bit of a mixed bag. Garner and longtime Reitman muse J.K. Simmons (who plays Allison's dad) do well in their screen time but then they do in most everything they do. Greer and Norris are somewhat erratic as it goes, but Sandler and DeWitt seem to have the worst chemistry and deliver their plotline in the weakest manner possible. The skill seems to be there, Sandler jokes aside, but it comes up as wasteful, something that Greer and Norris seem to suffer from to a lesser degree.

I do not think it can be stated enough how much the storytelling tends to miss the mark. The plotlines ruminate on the dangers of technology, and rather than one putting something out there that would be out of place for one of the characters, the resolutions for most of what occurs are either disappointments, assuming that they were even resolved to begin with. It seems to realize that generally (to oversimplify) ‘ooh, dangerous internets!', but the part of the problem is that, like society, Reitman does not seem to be sure of how his characters should handle some of these things. It does not help the movie when some of the characters are put in what could be seen as over-exaggerated positions to begin with. Maybe there is an inherent obliviousness that these characters have, specifically the Garner and Greer ones, but they seem to be a touch emphasized with the dangerous googles in mind. Rather than make a crazy decision, nobody makes any real decisions here, and you are left wondering what happened over the last hour and 55 minutes.

People keep making these films about technology as some sort of strange ode to personal interactions and I get the reasons for doing so. But rather than ponder the ramifications about the technology or some of the behavior of the characters in the movie, Reitman does not really put much legwork into the story or worthwhile exposition. In a way, maybe Men, Women & Children is a rail against technology, because Reitman would have had to have been terribly distracted if this was what he wanted to give people to ruminate on.

The Blu-ray:
The Video:

In 1.85:1 widescreen and presented in high-definition using the AVC codec, Men, Women & Children certainly is a gorgeous film. Whether it is the computer generated enhancements to the film like the on-screen texts, tweets and emoji's, or the hallway lighting of a cheerleader talking to a football player, the many different colors and images are vivid and sharp. In the darker moments of the film the blacks are inky and present a good contrast to other elements in the image, and in tighter moments, wrinkles and hairs on a hand touching Helen's back are just as impressive as the discernible shifts in Sandler's beard. Kudos to Reitman and his longtime cinematographer Eric Steelberg for their visuals in the film and to Paramount for the transfer.

The Sound:

The accompanying DTS-HD Master Audio track (in 5.1 surround) is just as impressive, even if it does not have too much to do. Dialogue is well-balanced, inbound and outbound text tones sound like they just came from my phone, and despite the dialogue-driven material, the score does invite a moment or two of low-end fidelity, and a third act rock thrown through a window sounds clear as can be. There are even subtle directional effects for a good layer of immersion during listening. All in all this is about as impressive as the transfer.

Extras:

The biggest extra is "Virtual Intimacy" (13:29), in which Reitman and the cast discuss the technology today and kids' grasp/lack thereof with it, and the social impacts of technology these days. "Seamless Interface" (8:29) is a look at the texts, tweets and home screens that are heavily peppered through the film. There are five deleted scenes (9:49), one of which comprises another plotline that was excised quickly. If you want a standard definition copy of the film, or digital one for Ultraviolet and iTunes, it is here as well.

Final Thoughts:

While the subject matter that Men, Women & Children wants to address is interesting, if not a touch formidable, one would think with some of the actors and a capable storyteller as Reitman that the finished product would have some sort of meaning or consequence behind it somewhere through the two hours and Altman-esque number of plotlines. Technically, the disc holds its water, even if the bonuses and film do not. It may be worth grabbing on the Redbox and returning just as fast. Do it through the app as a thumb in the eye for the film to boot.

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