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Wed September 8, 2004
Successful coasting between the formulaic chase-against-time suspense and the inherently laughable conduct of cell phone users.
By John DeSando, WCBE's "It's Movie Time"
Cell phones annoy me, not only because their use in public usually encourages higher pitched voices and careless navigating but also because they now in my health club locker room threaten to capture my sorry backside for the Internet. The new film "Cellular" displays all those elements for a worthy cause, saving Jessica Martin (the still glamorous Kim Basinger) and her family from abductors as she randomly contacts a hapless twenty-something Ryan (Chris Evan) on his cell to engage his help.
This is boilerplate Hollywood thriller with outrageous car chases and plot holes big enough to drive a featured $80k Porsche through. But it is fun. Storywriter Larry Cohen used a similar setup in his "Phone Booth" (2002), which had urbanite Stu Shepard (Colin Farrell) stymied in one of New York's last phone booths by a sniper. Just 2 years later, the upgrade to cellular ratchets up the communication age to include the entire family and a change to Los Angeles with a police force prone to corruption.
The satirical savaging of the geeky lawyer owner of that Porsche (Rick Hoffman, "I love Your Work"), who claims the new car can cause the loss of a woman's crucial undergarment in 3 seconds, is funny; the indifference of employees at the cell store is both humorous and frightening; the scene of his trying to retrieve that auto from a lady with extreme attitude in the impounding lot is even funnier. The comedy is effective because it lampoons contemporary cultural obsessions and selfishness while it entertains with a nod from all of us that we've been there.
First time director David Ellis is successful coasting between the formulaic chase-against-time suspense and the inherently laughable conduct of cell phone users. Regardless, communication is an overall theme of the film. As Karl Jaspers said in "The Perennial Scope of Philosophy," "Communication in every form is so much a part of man as man in the very depth of his being, that it must always remain possible and one can never know how far it will go."
In "Cellular" it goes everywhere.
John DeSando teaches film at Franklin University and co-hosts WCBE's "It's Movie Time," which can be heard streaming at www.wcbe.org Fridays at 3:01 pm and 8:01 pm. Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.RR.com.