IN 1936, Reefer Madness did its best to scare people away from "marihuana"—the "violent narcotic" and "unspeakable scourge" that was "destroying the youth of America." Seventy-eight years later, Reefer Madness has become a cult comedy. I suspect something similar will happen with Jason Reitman's Men, Women, & Children. Unlike Reefer Madness, Men, Women, & Children's unspeakable scourges are the internet, smart phones, and videogames; like Reefer Madness, Men, Women, & Children preaches that our use of these violent narcotics will lead to societal Armageddon.
Ostensibly based on the novel by Chad Kultgen but actually probably written by your grandmother, Men, Women, & Children bursts with hysterical panic: WATCH as internet pornography renders a teenager IMPOTENT! WINCE as product placement for ashleymadison.com tempts a wife into EXTRAMARITAL INTERCOURSE! GAG as a girl discovers thinspiration—and starves herself into an ECTOPIC PREGNANCY! SHUDDER as a promising young athlete strays into the sinister realms of VIDEOGAMES! CONDEMN a mother who sells lewd photos of her underage daughter to ONLINE PERVERTS! WEEP as human interaction is destroyed by TEXTING! SCREAM as brazen teens USE TUMBLR! BEHOLD Adam Sandler as he MASTURBATES ALL OVER HIS SON'S COMPUTER!
Men, Women, & Children's bewildering core aside (at no point does any character realize their problems are human ones rather than technological ones), there's more to be confused about. Like how Reitman gets decent performances out of a fantastic cast—Emma Thompson, Rosemarie DeWitt, J.K. Simmons, Dennis Haysbert, Judy Greer, Dean Norris, and Sandler, in his best turn since Funny People—despite giving them hand-wringing garbage to work with. Or whether anyone behind the film realizes how contemporary human beings actually interact with each other. Like Dave Eggers' The Circle, Reitman's film condemns things it doesn't understand; unlike Spike Jonze's Her, it refuses to acknowledge that technology offers any benefits whatsoever.
As an added bonus, Men, Women, & Children leans heavily on some rather famous words from Carl Sagan. The fact that the writings of one of humanity's most forward-thinking scientists get twisted to serve this film's neo-Luddite agenda is sad and weird, and it bummed me out even more than watching Adam Sandler masturbate all over his son's computer.