Pillbox

FILM: Cellular

For a film as patently ridiculous as Cellular, it?s surprisingly enjoyable. There was really not a single non-ridiculous moment of the movie; it had William H. Macy in a seaweed face mask, more product placement than you could shake a stick at, and a plot with at least as many holes as an old sponge. These can?t even be considered failings, really, because the movie is fun enough that they can be overlooked. In fact, the movie sometimes requires you to overlook some of its finer points.
Luckily, director David R. Ellis gives the audience little time to realize they?re watching nonsense. Within two minutes of the start of the film, one woman is already dead and another has been dragged off kicking and screaming. No time for exposition here; Ellis only bothers himself with the what, not the why or the who. As the harmless high-school science teacher Jessica Martin (Kim Basinger) is thrown into a dark attic by some generic goons, we meet stereotypical surfer boy Ryan (Chris Evans), sharing good times with his friends on Santa Monica pier. His girlfriend just dumped him and he?s having trouble letting go. As far as the audience is concerned, he doesn?t have a job or any real backstory outside the movie ? but it?s okay, because he has the coolest cell phone in the world, and he makes sure everyone knows it.
Ryan?s Pacific Coast utopia doesn?t last very long, though, when a call from Jessica Martin arrives at his cell phone. Her captors smashed the phone in the attic where she was being held, but being the resourceful high school science teacher type, she managed to rewire the phone. However, she had no control over where her call would go; desperately clicking wires together doesn?t usually afford a person much choice. Like any other sane person, Ryan is incredulous at first, but he decides to be a good Samaritan and take his phone to the police station.
It can?t be that easy, though. Virtually every college student knows how finicky a cell phone can be, but it?s not a fact that most movies deal with. In a movie like Cellular, though, it?s practically a necessity. The middle hour of the movie (with only about fifteen minutes before and after ? Cellular clocks in at a mere 94 minutes) throws complication after complication at our protagonist, and most elicited more than a chuckle from much of the audience. By the end of the day Ryan had stolen two cars, destroyed one, and held up a cellular store at gunpoint ? and that?s just the crimes he could be prosecuted for.
Chris Evans, whose only notable acting credit is the lead role in The Perfect Score, a comedy released earlier this year, can be considered the poor man?s Seann William Scott; he has the same carefree attitude and west coast cockiness as the actor famous for American Pie?s Steve Stifler. And that combination works great in Cellular. Here we have a kid, he can?t be more than 22, thrown into an extraordinary situation that he is in no way prepared to deal with. Ryan makes the best of his situation and thinks on his feet, but he never moves into action star territory. He isn?t running around sunny California whipping out roundhouse kicks and two-fisted gunplay ? the only fighting back he ever does is hitting various thugs with a blunt object or two when the opportunity arises. And it feels right.
Believability is a word that can?t be used often for Cellular. Interestingly enough the most believable parts of the movie are all the plot contrivances it throws at the characters. Traffic, batteries, reception, and difficult lawyers all get in Ryan?s way as he races across town to save a woman he?s never even met.
The best reason to ignore all logic and rationality when you sit down in the theater to watch Cellular is how it?s put together. With a fantastic score rarely seen in this sort of movie, it draws you into the action very quickly, and the most memorable scene in the movie is completely thanks to the song playing in the background ? music is very tightly integrated into the experience.
The movie is very well-shot, too. There are plenty of wide shots to establish location, especially in the Santa Monica sequences ? the camera takes great advantage of the bikini-clad backdrop of a beautiful California day. The car chases are tight and fast, with plenty of in-car shots as Ryan goes barreling into oncoming traffic creating a real sense of speed and danger. The sequences watching Jessica holed up in the attic are not nearly as fun to watch ? the same few camera angles are used again and again, and it starts getting repetitive far too early in the movie. This is one of the biggest shortcomings of the movie, though, and all things considered, that?s not so bad.
The sign of a good summer movie is if you walk away smiling. It means the movie accomplished its goal ? to give the audience an hour or two of entertainment. Not to win an Oscar, not to provoke deep thought ? just to entertain. And Cellular does that remarkably efficiently. It might not be worth $9, but it is definitely a film to see, though no sooner than when it comes to McConomy later this year.