HE SAID: ‘Cellular’ phones it in
In more capable hands, “Cellular” could have been a tense, sweaty, harrowing thriller, but it reflects its sunny SoCal setting a little too faithfully.The best aspect of “Cellular” is its sense of humor, poking fun at Southern California stereotypes and cell-phone culture like a toothless version of Michael Douglas’ 1993 white-middle-class glowerfest “Falling Down.” But “Cellular” is just a little too mild and sunny – though, like its characters, none too bright.
Scriptwriter Larry Cohen originally conceived of “Cellular” as the counterpart to another of his scripts, “Phone Booth,” saddling it with the opposite gimmick: Just as Colin Farrell’s character couldn’t leave the titular call box (which seems so five-minutes-ago after watching “Cellular”), Chris Evans is free to roam Los Angeles in “Cellular” as long as he doesn’t lose the signal because he’s the only hope for kidnapped Jessica Martin (Kim Basinger), who’s on a jury-rigged phone at the other end of the line.Give “Cellular” credit for handling the gimmick nimbly – though with a boatload of contrivances. Even if it takes a dozen “yeah-right” moments to keep “Cellular” on the rails, at least Cohen and director David R. Ellis don’t force the big, unlikely twist down the audience’s throat.But “Cellular” never reaches out and grabs the audience on either a dramatic or human level. If the 50-year-old Basinger can’t tug the heartstrings with the desperate-mom routine, the better-than-average cast should at least make “Cellular” more than a live-action cartoon.
But Evans, channeling Keanu Reeves and looking like the long-lost Wilson cousin (Luke and Owen, not Brian), is too much of a flaky surfer-boy stereotype to relate to; William H. Macy, a veteran of stronger casts in better movies, is there to humanize the LAPD but barely registers; and “Cellular” wastes Jason Statham as the head of a Rainbow Coalition of bad guys.There’s nothing wrong with “Cellular,” but it’s not as spry, funny or relevant as it could be.
As my cell phone company is fond of reminding me, the clock is always running, and “Cellular” makes me wish I had done something wiser with those 94 minutes.Dan Thomas is trying to persuade Verizon that he’s exceeded his allotted minutes because of a mysterious distress call from Kim Basinger.
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