Movies — Cellular (R)

Cellular (R)

Kim Basinger gets to do a little heavy breathing for young Chris Evans in Cellular, a silly, mildly entertaining non-thriller about why you should screen your calls.

Jessica Martin (Basinger) is an upper-class high school science teacher who walks her son to his private-school bus in her fashionable preppy outfit and returns home to discuss home-related issues with her Mexican housekeeper only to have her very SUV day horribly thrown awry by men who break in to her home, kill the what-did-she-ever-do-to-you housekeeper and kidnap a startled Jessica. They take her to an attic and threaten to harm her son if she doesn’t give them the something (what, she doesn’t know) that they want. She pleads and screeches and finds herself alone and facing certain death in a room with nothing but a smashed phone. Using her Mr. Wizard knowledge, she twists and taps some wires until she manages to make a random phone call. The recipient?

Ryan (Chris Evans) is an irritating sitcomy one-dimensional surfer-haired loser whose brand-new phone has a bazillion features that will be useful later. While driving along Pacific Coast Highway, he gets the hysterical Jessica’s call. After the obligatory “is this a joke,” “no, it’s not a joke” “did Chad put you up to this,” “I don’t know who Chad is, you have to help me,” “this is a lame joke, “look, bitch, this ain’t a joke, you dig” (dialogue approximated), Ryan agrees to hand the cell phone to a police officer. He drives up to the station and briefly gets the attention of the solemn Sgt. Mooney (William H. Macy). But a riot in the police station lobby distracts him, and one thing leads to another and Ryan is on his own as he tries to save Jessica’s son, the unfortunately named Ricky (Adam Taylor Gordon), and her husband, Craig (Richard Burgi).

Cellular is a movie saved by stupidity. Had either the villains—led by the bald dynamo Jason Stratham who, here, slums it—or Ryan acted in an intelligent fashion at any point, the movie would have been over much sooner. But, like corruption in government, a certain amount of stupidity helps keep the wheels greased and things moving forward.

With a little stupid helping things go down easier and an only 50 percent annoying performance by Basinger, Cellular might have been another forgettable action movie that neither greatly impresses nor greatly offends. But it transcends this—entering the territory of a solidly not-so-bad flick because of two particular decisions made in the way this plot plays out in the final 30 or so minutes. What are these decisions? What exactly happens to make the end of Cellular cool enough to make the whole movie moderately worth watching?

Well, I can’t tell you.

It’s only if you don’t know these things are happening and then they happen that you think to yourself, hey, they’re letting (name withheld) actually (action redacted) two of the (draw-your-own-conclusions)? Damn, that’s awesome. You go, (party of the first part). And, wait, (expunged) gets to be the (knowing-shrug)? About time.

Cellular exceeds the expectations set up by the similarly-titled-yet-far-more-moronic Phone Booth and actually starts to get interesting when you-know-who starts to something-something.

- Amy Diaz 

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