2.2 out of 10
“The Call” is a very strange, bad movie. It gets a few things right, occasionally, but the best part about the film is nothing that the film explicitly did. At least, at my theater, the best part of the movie was all the unsolicited commentary from the audience. It was both horribly annoying and amazingly amusing. The film itself managed to get the tension right on a number of occasions and at least one actress did well. But, ultimately, the film was unable to maintain the tension, was predictable and was excruciatingly slow.
“The Call” is as bad as the trailer made it look. No, strike that. It is worse.
Any spoilers will be clearly marked so you can avoid reading them if you so choose.
“The Call” opens in Baltimore on March 14, 2012.
Well, this section will be short and only mildly sweet. Abigail Breslin (“Zombieland”, “Signs”) may be the youngest cast member this time around, but she is the only one worth watching. She plays the girl who is kidnapped and manages to display real terror and emotion in a film filled with neither. She is also the only reason the film manages to get the suspense right on a few occasions.
The scene when Casey (Breslin) is first kidnapped and thrown into a trunk (that was in the trailer, calm down) is actually pretty well done. Breslin brings to life a character who is terrified down to her core and the ensuing chase is fun to watch, even if the bumbling police botch what should be an easy arrest. For those few shining minutes you think maybe, just maybe, “The Call” could be a decent movie.
In all my years watching film, both personally and professionally, I have never experienced anything like what I went through at this screening. There was so much talking by the audience that it would put the guys from “Mystery Science Theater 3000” to shame – though the commentary at my screening was obviously nowhere near as funny as those guys. I think the reason for the ungodly amount of banter was the fact that the movie was so bad and cliché-riddled that it was begging for it. There was the classic, “Don’t go in there!” and the obvious, “Scream, girl, why aren’t you screaming?” The Wayan brothers could have made a spoof film about clichéd thrillers simply by filming my theater while they were showing “The Call.”
But, this is in The Good section because it was the only thing that made the film fun. I hate “talkers.” But “The Call” had it coming and my talkers let ‘em have it.
Let’s start with the obvious, clichés. “The Call” must have attempted to use the entire book of tired gimmicks. There are the bumbling police who couldn't find the floor if they fell on it, but hey, if they caught the guy the movie would be over. There was the unarmed woman who decides to try to find the bad guy by herself and then somehow seems surprised when she gets into a sticky situation. There was the drop your cell phone. The no cell service. Of course we have the heroine who had quit her job but is thrust back into the action as ‘the only one who could do it’. And the list just goes on and on.
As you can probably guess by now, the film was incredibly predictable. You could even predict which cliché was coming up.
How does a 90-minute thriller drag? Some of the scenes in “The Call” were brutal. Like have the guy sitting next to you slap you in the face brutal. There was one scene near the end that was probably no more than five minutes long but it felt more like 20.
My friend and colleague Nell Minow – aka The Movie Mom – has what she calls The “Gothika” Rule. I thought this was extra fitting since that too was a Halle Berry film. The “Gothika” Rule states that if a movie is so bad, Nell will spoil the ending for you – if you ask – to prevent you from seeing the film. It is really the only humane thing to do. When I asked her for permission to mention her rule she informed me that Halle Berry is now the first actor to have three films worthy of The Gothika Rule.
I will follow in her footsteps and give away the ending to anyone who asks (TomExaminer@gmail.com). The ending is absurd, but seems a fitting way to end such a horrible film. Basically, the ending is as silly and unbelievable as the rest of the story and all the characters, so, why not?
The Bottom Line
“The Call” is bad, really bad. A good performance by Abigail Breslin and stumbling across a few moments of real tension are the only redeeming values. And they are nowhere near enough to justify you waste your time or money on this one. If you could guarantee you got a crowd as rowdy as I did then it may be worth it to experience “talkers” at their best. But, screenings are usually packed and people are extra chatty because they got the tickets for free. It’s hard to complain to the manager when you didn’t pay anyway. So, I wouldn’t risk it. There would probably be no more than 30 people in your theater and I’m sure they wouldn’t talk enough to get the full experience (I never thought I would write that sentence). Just stay away. Please. This film is 90 minutes of “Ugh!”