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ReelTalk Movie Reviews
Hands-Free Entertainment
by John P. McCarthy

On paper, Cellular looks like it's going to be more annoying than listening to some jerk bark into his cell phone while simultaneously ordering a five-hyphenate Starbucks beverage. Not to worry. Take your finger off the mute button and let this humorously obnoxious thriller entertain you.

The best part is you don't have to do a thing. It's a hands-free ride -- transistorized to appeal to the least common denominator, which doesn't mean stupid; rather, the characters think so you don't have to.

Cellular moves so quickly and efficiently, you'll wish accessing your voicemail were as easy. The compacted plotline gets increasingly suspenseful while sparing minutes for funny asides about how communications technology has changed our daily lives.

Before you've had a chance to admire Kim Basinger's slim figure or question how Jessica -- the biology teacher she plays -- can afford to live in the wealthy Brentwood section of Los Angeles, employ a housekeeper and look so good taking her kid to the bus, she's kidnapped.

Okay. She must have a cell phone hidden somewhere. Nope. The attic where her burly captors stash her has a conventional phone the camera immediately detects. But then the perps' ringleader (Jason Statham) takes a sledgehammer to it. This is when Jessica's scientific background and resourcefulness emerge. She goes to the shattered phone on the floor and starts tapping wires together. Voila! A call is made.

Who does she reach? The cell phone of Ryan (Chris Evans), a shirtless twenty-something slacker who's at Venice beach trying to get back into the good graces of his ex girlfriend by proving he's not completely irresponsible. Here's his chance. He's skeptical of Jessica's crazy story yet she's persistent. For the next 80 minutes she keeps him and the audience on the line.

Half their challenge is not losing the connection and the moviemakers provide numerous obstacles without straining credulity too far. The most is made of cell phone innovations; the only thing that isn't done is text messaging.

Ryan takes a whirlwind trip through the ether and the congested streets of L.A. In the process of trying to rescue Jessica and protect her son and husband (who holds the key to her abduction), he steals a school security vehicle, robs a cell phone store when his battery runs low, and carjacks a loudmouth attorney. A veteran cop (William H. Macy) on the verge of retirement provides crucial aid.

Cellular argues that chivalry is not dead. Basinger gets top billing, justified by her Oscar-winning status, but the movie really belongs to Evans. Ryan's heroism is slightly ironic since much of the movie's humor has misogynistic overtones, plus quick-thinking Jessica does her share to foil the bad guys. It's also ironic because, despite the wits his character displays, Evans could be mistaken for a boy toy. He's got the good looks to assume the Cruise or Pitt mantle and the acting chops as well. This is one of those "breakout performances" you're always hearing about.

Though she's old enough to be his mom, when Ryan and Jessica finally meet, you wonder if a romantic attachment might form. There's a definite erotic dimension to their connection. Cellular isn't about phone sex but does transmit on the same wavelength. And no medium taps into it as effectively as the movies. 

(Released by New Line Cinema and rated "PG-13" for violence, terror situations, language and sexual references.)

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