This past weekend saw an upset at the box office as "The Call" became the weekend's most successful new release, beating out the star-studded but formulaic magic comedy "The Incredible Burt Wonderstone."
Maybe it was just my relief at not having to review that bomb, or maybe it was the excitement of rushing out to a movie after midnight Saturday, but I found "The Call" to be surprisingly endearing.
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The same thing happened with "Chronicle" last year, and while "The Call" isn't worthy of the near-rave review I gave "Chronicle," I was at least glad to have gone out of my way to see it.
Halle Berry stars as Jordan, a 911 operator who is traumatized in film's opening moments when she mishandles a call about a home invasion that leads to a girl's death. She resigns from doing the job so she can teach it, but six months later she's compelled to take a call from another teenage girl.
Casey (Abigail Breslin) has been kidnapped and locked in the trunk of a car that's speeding down the L.A. freeway. Casey notes that the trunk contains a shovel, which implies that kidnapper plans to kill and bury her. Personally, I'd be grateful to see a shovel that I could use as a weapon or an escape tool, but she doesn't find it comforting. Oh, and the kidnapper is the same creep from the home invasion (Michael Eklund) who left Jordan shaken and defeated.
Casey is on a disposable phone that can't be traced (of course), so she and Jordan have to come up with ways to lead police to the car from inside the trunk. It's certainly convenient that the car has an easily breakable taillight that provides an opening. Jordan also has to help Casey emotionally, because she needs her to cooperate even though the girl is understandably hysterical.
Casey's constant wailing is annoying at times, but I suppose it lends itself to the movie better than going into silent shock, which would probably be the realistic reaction. Berry and Breslin have good chemistry in their interaction, and they're more sympathetic than a lot of the "heroes" I've seen lately.
For its final act, the film realizes that Jordan has yet to really get in on the action, so it sees her personally follow a supposed dead end and confront the killer. It feels forced to have Jordan pursue a hunch alone, especially when she has a cop (Morris Chestnut) for a boyfriend.
For the record, the killer doesn't even know that he and Jordan are mortal enemies. The film could have had a funny moment where he gets his mind blown by the coincidence of his victims reaching the same 911 operator. I consider it a missed opportunity. The killer is planning to do some gruesome things to Casey, and different gruesome things transpire. I was satisfied with the punishment in the film's final scenes, though I do question what kind of peace of mind the survivor(s) can have in walking away from a deadly enemy, no matter how badly they're injured or restrained.
"The Call" isn't particularly smart or original. Its special effects aren't great and the main character spends most of the time at a call station. The intelligence of its villain is distractingly inconsistent, though Michael Eklund is effectively despicable in his performance. He might actually be the film's most pleasant surprise, though I wouldn't call anything about his character "pleasant."
I doubt the film will make a lasting impression. But if you really have a bug to go see a movie, you could do worse. You could wind up in "Burt Wonderstone," for example.
Two Stars out of Five.
"The Call" is rated R for violence, disturbing content and language. Its running time is 95 minutes.
Contact Bob Garver at firstname.lastname@example.org.