★ / ★★★★
Three months after her mother’s burial, Haley (Steffany Huckaby) finds a toy phone that she used to play with when she was a kid. Wanting to feel the good times of childhood once more, she picks up the phone and dials a number. It rings. To her surprise, a woman from 1960 answers. Haley tells her friend, Cathy (Amanda Troop), about her discovery. They wish to make sure it is real so they make a handful of prank calls. Cathy tells Haley that if they can communicate with the past, then perhaps they can change the present.
Written and directed by Robin Christian, “Disconnect” has a premise that brims with potential. Not only does the phone have the capability to call any number, whether it be from the past or the future, it gives the opportunity for the caller to reconnect with loved ones, dead or alive. Many of us can relate to that need to have a second chance, to reset and wipe the slate clean. So it is most frustrating that the film is a big disappointment.
While the acting is wooden across the board, it is worsened by the omnipresent score and soundtrack. When a person is expressing grief, the violin cranks up the elegy. When someone is expressing surprise or joy, a corny pop song is employed. It is often that the music serves as a distraction, blasting away when a scene ought to be shrouded in silence. The sound of grieving over a death of a loved one is silence, not sad chords or keys.
The protagonist is not written smart. Never mind that she is always crying and constantly tells everyone around her how she feels. The holes in her logic—what should be done in order to trigger or fix a course of action using the magical telephone—are big enough for us to question. So instead of being behind her every step of the way, we hope that she recognizes a mistake and really think things through before a situation gets worse. Of course, it is convenient that the mistakes pile up until the final act.
Perhaps it might have worked better as a dark comedy instead of a thriller. Although the telephone is a mysterious artifact, there is nothing thrilling about the events that revolve around it. The occurrences in the second half are funny, but I am not sure they are meant to be. People die but the deaths do not hold much weight if by the next scene there is hope that their fates can be undone. Also, I laughed because it sounds like every line of dialogue is shouted. When more things go wrong—and they do—the decibels increase. We can feel the actors trying to remember their lines. It is like watching a rehearsal for a play that will take about two more months before it is ready to be shown to the public.
The movie is not unbearable and I liked how the so-called time telephone looks. But the negatives significantly outweigh the positives. Somewhere in the middle, I wondered how much more imaginative it might have been if a child had discovered the phone. I would be interested in seeing that movie.