If you’re buying what Catfish is selling, might I also interest you in some power plant-area property I’m looking to unload? Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman’s film purports to be a straight-shooting documentary account of the relationship that formed between Schulman’s 24-year-old Manhattan photographer brother Nev and the family of an 8-year-old Michigan artistic prodigy named Abby Pierce. Yet from the moment go, there’s something off about this non-fiction account – namely, that it’s quite clearly not non-fiction at all, but rather a counterfeit stunt with a narrative modeled after The Night Listener. With a neatly scripted tale that comes equipped with an oh-so-timely third-act surprise message about our modern age, the film is far too perfectly self-contained (and involves people behaving far too implausibly) to be accepted as a verité work, despite all the close-up shots of Facebook and cell phone texts that seek to legitimize it with “this is how we live” veracity. Charting Nev’s communication with not only adolescent artist Abby but also her mom Angela and her sexy sister Megan, the latter a stranger with whom the unbelievably naïve Nev develops an online romantic relationship (cute sexting included!), Joost and Schulman manage to develop some early tension from the fact that something’s suspicious about the identities Abby and her clan present in the virtual sphere. Yet once [spoiler alert] Nev visits Michigan in order to learn who these fraudulent online friends truly are, and it becomes apparent that he won’t end up a prisoner in some wacko’s basement (the film’s most disappointing twist), all that’s left to the proceedings are “well-duh!” revelations about the way modern mass-media affords opportunities for role-playing deceptions – arguments which are then naturally re-enforced by the movie’s own phoniness. Snooze. Perhaps this unimaginative lesson would hit harder if the film were genuine – at best, the filmmakers seem to have manipulated actual circumstances; at worst, they appear to have dreamed up the entire thing – or if it didn’t shamelessly exploit Abby’s pitiful mom Angela as well as two severely handicapped boys to convey well-known points. But nothing Catfish has to say makes any impact, because ultimately, its documentary guise and drearily obvious commentary reek of manufactured bullshit.