‘The Call’ phones it in

While we’re making calls, let’s call up a few choice screenwriters. Let’s get a couple of commendable directors on the line as well. God knows Brad Anderson’s “The Call”, starring Halle Berry and “Little Miss Sunshine’s” Abigail Breslin, needed these guys. I expected much more than a cheap thrill flooded with clichés from the director of the innovative “The Machinist”. Seems a bit harsh? Well give me a few minutes of your time and I’ll give you a few reasons why.

All a good thriller needs is a twist on an old thrill. However, “The Call” falls very short of any originality and only reenacts an old thrill.  Berry is a 911 operator who takes a call from a girl being kidnapped and decides –like any Good Samaritan would do –to risk her life, job and even morals to track the psycho kid-snatcher down and rescue the child. We’ve seen this thrill before, where the protagonist becomes the hunter of the antagonist but “The Call” fails to put a new spin on it and the characters are just as cliché as the storyline.

Berry, who wears her emotions on her sleeve like a spaghetti stain on a church-white button down, only acts on the guilt she has from a previous incident where the same scenario happened and because of a perfectly timed dropped call the kid died. Our kidnapper is a textbook psycho who twitches, stares and looks like a suburban homeowner. Where is the twist? Where’s the ingredient that makes this thriller worthy of our bucks? A great example of a twist on this old thrill is the 2000 film “The Cell” in which the antagonist is also hunted down but the setting is inside the mind of the protagonist. The antagonist is inside the protagonist— this is a mind blowing twist! Clearly someone forgot to “call” the creators of “The Call” and let them in on this modern architect of the thriller genre.

Ok, enough shameless plugs of “call”. Bottom line: if you’re looking for a thrill, the film provides a few but nothing we haven’t already calculated seconds before. It’s unfortunate that a film with such a beastly cast and crew would lack a thriller’s distinctive ingredient: originality.

Grade: C-
MPAA Rating: R

Running Time: 1 hr. 35 min.
Released: March 15
Why it didn’t plunder to an F: Little Miss Sunshine’s all grown up!
Why it wasn’t worthy of an A: Lacks originality