Call, The

MPAA Rating: R

Entertainment: +2

Content: -4

Halle Berry, Abigail Breslin, Morris Chestnut, Michael Eklund. Written by Richard DíOvidio. Directed by Brad Anderson.

FILM SYNOPSIS: When veteran 911 operator, Jordan (Halle Berry) takes a life-altering call from a teenage girl (Abigail Breslin) who has just been abducted, she realizes that she must confront a killer from her past in order to save the girl's life.

PREVIEW REVIEW: What starts out as a harrowing look at the intensity of the 911 operatorís job life soon diminishes into the common cinema territory of the goofy, gory thriller. And this one has more implausibilities than several combined episodes of Monk. Both Berry and Breslin are game and there are enough jolts and gross-out gimmicks to satisfy the casual filmgoer whoís evidently not analyzing the film or, apparently, conscious. Disappointingly, it soon loses its harrowing factor and just becomes tedious.

Iíll tell you what Iím going to do. Iím going to rip this film apart, but Iím giving you a heads-up. This is your spoiler alert. And the reason Iíll be giving away incidents in the film is to either show just how dumb Hollywood filmmakers are or how little respect they have for our ability to reason. I donít usually give away too much of a plot, but, Iíve never seen a big studio release so determined to test our suspension of disbelief. Just skip to the content if you want to see what else may offend you Ė I mean, besides an apparent contempt for our ability to reason. Okay, here goes.

First, Abigail Breslin gets kidnapped in a Southern CA mall parking garage. Nobody else around? Really? Nobody else around - in a Southern CA mall parking lot?

So, the goof chloroforms the teenager. Is it really that easy to get chloroform? Movie psychos always have a bottle of the stuff.

After sheís fast asleep, he dumps her into the trunk. He doesnít tie her up or gag her. Nor does he check her for a cell phone. (Now why would he check to see if a teenager had a cell phone?) He just lays her beside paint cans and, oh yes, a screwdriver. See, Iím thinking, if Iím going to stuff someone in my trunk for nefarious purposes, Iím probably going to take out the screwdriver. And, oh yeah, if Iím going to stop at a gas station to fill up, with a teenager in the trunk, as this guy does, well, Iím probably not going to expect the chick to stay quiet while I carry on a conversation with the attendant.

And when the crazy guy sets the gas pump attendant on fire and takes off, thereís no one else around to take down the license or call 911? Really, no one else near a gas station in So CA?

No matter how many times the kidnappee causes the kidnapper consternation, because sheís not taped up, he never does restrain her. As a hostage taker this guyís pretty lame.

Skipping ahead to the cuckooís hideout, we find heís built a subterranean torture chamber/hospital where he takes the girls he has abducted. Why there? Well, it turns out, his older sister died of cancer when she was a teen. By way of a series of found photos, we see the sick sister gradually deteriorate, losing all of her gorgeous blond hair before she finally died. So, he takes his nabbed high schoolers to this place that only has one entrance Ė a hidden door in the ground he somehow camouflages with dirt and leaves. Hmmm, if thereís only one way in, how can he put the leaves and dirt on the door once heís shut it down behind him? But I digress.

Back to what he wants from the girls. Their hair. He straps them to a hospital-like gurney, washes their heads, cuts their blond locks, and then scalps them to make living wigs. And whatís he do with the wigs. You got me. I guess thatís another question weíre not supposed to ask.

By now, Ms. Berry has been relieved of duty after doing everything right. Sheís ordered to go home and rest. Understand, this is the second time sheís had to go through this. Years before, the same nutcase kidnapped an adolescent and the operator couldnít save that one. BTW, what are the odds that someone would get the same 911 operator anywhere, let alone in Southern CA?

This being an action thriller starring a former Oscar winner, you just know she isnít going home. That night she shows up at the site (the kidnapperís mountain cottage retreat from wife and kids) where the cops didnít even look for clues. And each time she finds a rather significant clue (in the dark no less), does she call 911? Oh, please. Sheís armed with a pocket flashlight, whatís she got to worry about?

And on it goes.

The Call leaves the land of logic and reality only to enter the realm of the Ď80s teen horror genre. Remember those? No matter how many times we tried to warn the babysitter Ė not to go into the house Ė not to open the door Ė not to turn around Ė she always did. So does Ms. Berry. It appears screen heroines never learn.

Preview Reviewer: Phil Boatwright

The following categories contain objective listings of film content which contribute to the subjective numeric Content ratings posted to the left and on the Home page.

Crude Language: None

Obscene Language: Ms. Breslinís sidekick is the more worldly girl, cursing and talking coarsely about sexual matters; the f-word and s-word pop up in these conversations several times each.

Profanity: I caught one profane use of Godís name, plus the express ďOh my GodĒ is uttered frequently.

Violence: The mere act of kidnapping an innocent girl is rather hard to view as she becomes so terrified; a man is beaten with a shovel; a man is stabbed to death with a screwdriver; a man has gasoline sprayed on him from a gas pump and then set on fire; a teen girl is punched in the face; she is later strapped down to a gurney and the evildoer uses a scalpel to begin slicing her forehead, meaning to scalp her; other struggles and jolts happen throughout. Some blood from stab wound and cutting.

Sex: None

Nudity: No nudity, but the villain removes the teenagers blouse and we see her just in her bra and jeans for several scenes; though thereís little difference seeing a girl in a bra or a bikini, still itís unsettling, perhaps because it is done against her will.

Sexual Dialogue/Gesture: None

Drugs: The girl is drugged with chloroform; teens discus a boyfriend who does drugs too much.

Other: None

Running Time: 101 minutes
Intended Audience: Older teens and up.

Click HERE for a PRINTER-FRIENDLY version of this review.