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Film Review: 'Disconnect'

"Disconnect," starring Jason Bateman and Hope Davis, is another mediocre ensemble dramas aspirationally modeled on "Magnolia" and "Crash."

Hope Davis, Jason Bateman and Haley Ramm are totally disconnected in "Disconnect." Credit: LD Entertainment Hope Davis, Jason Bateman and Haley Ramm are totally disconnected in "Disconnect."
Credit: LD Entertainment

Director: Henry-Alex Rubin
Stars: Jason Bateman, Hope Davis
Rating: R
2 (out of 5) Globes

Mediocre ensemble dramas aspirationally modeled on "Magnolia" or (worse luck) "Crash" come out quietly by the dozen every year. In them, stories of strangers living in a big city (almost inevitably Los Angeles or New York) are connected only by cameo-ing in other people's stories. The heavy-handed title for "Disconnect" would seem to indicate the thematic link is how technology meant to bring us closer together has actually made it harder for people to relate to each other. It's not a fresh irony, and “Disconnect" sheds no new light on the subject.

The most emotional weight is given to mute Ben Boyd (Jonah Bobo), a long-haired, music-minded loner who falls for Facebook messages from a non-existent girl. He takes a photo of himself naked and tries to hang himself when the picture's forwarded to the whole school. One of the catfishing cyber-bullies is unremorseful, but more sensitive Jason Dixon (Colin Ford) flails in guilt.

The marquee name is Jason Bateman as Ben's dad Rich. Bateman is uncharacteristically unshaven, a standard symbol of a dramatic change-of-pace for someone trying to shed their comic persona. An absent but caring dad, he's mirrored against Jason's ex-cop dad Mike (Frank Grillo), who quit the force to pursue private cyber-detective work and spend more time with his kid. Rich is absent and out-of-touch, while Mike is hyper-present and militaristically disciplinarian, incurring his son's resentment. Other stories involve a couple whose credit cards are charged for over $7,000 and hire Mike to find the identity thief (making this, oddly, Bateman's second appearance this year in a movie on the topic) and a local journalist who interviews a 15-year-old live webcam porn performer.

Often dull or plain silly, "Disconnect"'s climax ill-advisedly cross-cuts between all four stories in super-slo-mo. It's a look reminiscent of NFL films or "Melancholia," here turning the image of Bateman wielding a hockey stick in attack unintentionally ludicrous. Technology is uniformly negative throughout, but it's a red herring. The cyber-bullying segment is unpleasant but plausible, with two of the most realistically hateful adolescent boys in recent memory. The other stories have little to do with recent social problems rising from technology per se. The journalism story is a confused attack on sloppy journalistic ethics and equally mishandled FBI investigations, the identity theft thread is really a tract on the importance of open marital communication, and much of the remaining story frets over the equal dangers of over- and under-parenting.

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