The Suspension of Disbelief (I Can’t)

Last weekend, while most of you were busy getting drunk in the name of Catholicism and nursing your subsequent hangovers, I was busy taking care of my dog, who apparently thinks it’s a good idea to chew on door frames while I’m gone. Giving up my social life for this basket case means that I watch a lot of television. Blaming my soul-taking television habits on my stressed out dog isn’t exactly fair, but whatever. He can’t defend himself.

At any rate, my high volume of television intake also means that I am subject to all the previews for forthcoming movies. And, my god, some of these movies look ridiculous. Beautiful Creatures is like Twilight with witches and Emma Thompson. Admission makes my Tina Fey lady-boner weep (and not in a good way).

People have been complaining about the lack of originality in Hollywood for quite some time, but it never really bothered me. Sure, sequels and remakes abound. And, yeah, if you imagine coke-fueled circle-jerk movie pitches by old white dudes, rehashing the same old shit, then yeah, it’s something to get panty-twistingly angry about.

Hollywood, though, has always been this way. Some of the greatest movies ever made are just adaptations of novels, myths, and true stories. Laziness is part of the box office hit formula. Nicholas Sparks farted out another romance novel? Someone call Selena Gomez! Garfield again? Okay. Another reboot of Spiderman? Fine, fine, fine.

The reason I always thought that this was okay is because, if done correctly, every time a story is retold or a film remade, it is done from a fresh perspective. If done correctly, remakes add a whole different dimension and, in turn, enrich the story being told.

A line, however, has been crossed. To what am I referring? Halle Berry’s new movie The Call. Oh, it looks like your run-of-the-mill, overwrought “I’m not gonna let you hurt her” kind of story where the protagonist has an inexplicable attachment to the damsel in distress and just has to save her. Yet it is so much more.

The whole premise is this: a 9-1-1 operator, played by Halle Berry, fields a call from a teenage girl under attack by a serial killer. She helps the girl escape, but, for some reason, calls back when they get disconnected, essentially giving up the girl’s whereabouts to the killer. She blames herself for the death of this girl, which leads to her decision to turn in her headset and give up the operator life in order to become an instructor.

Lo and behold, several months later, by some twist of fate, another teenage girl is captured by the same serial killer. She calls 9-1-1 and just happens to be connected to the very dispatcher Halle Berry is training. Seeing that her trainee is not equipped to handle this kind of call (color me surprised!), she takes over and tries to rescue the girl. Fine. I will put aside my disbelief that another victim of this guy just happens to call 9-1-1 and connect with Berry’s character.

Where this movie starts to lose me, though, is the fact that Berry plays someone whose job includes hearing people die all the time. Sure, most 9-1-1 calls come from confused toddlers who just want to see what happens when they press the no-no button, but there’s also a lot of car accidents, domestic violence, and crime that these dispatchers (theoretically) deal with.

Which is why, the whole time throughout the movie, you just don’t get why she cares so fucking much. Like, seriously, if a girl were lucky enough for her kidnapper to be too stupid to grab her purse and/or phone from her before stuffing her in his trunk, the 9-1-1 operator would probably give her the bored, “Ma’am, you need to calm down. Ma’am, I don’t need you yelling in my ear. Just tell me where you are right now.”

Nope. She goes into overdrive, even going so far as to look for this guy without the help of police. But I’m getting ahead of myself. First, we have to talk about the fact that this “serial killer” realizes that the girl is flagging down help and ends up killing civilians who attempt to stop him. It gets messy.

What bothers me about the fact that he kills several bystanders and even steals a victim’s car in order to get away from the scene is that there is no way witnesses wouldn’t have taken note of the car he had stolen. Oh, and did I mention that he stole the car in order to get away from the cops who still hadn’t found him? How much fucking time elapsed while he was killing people in public?

If a white teenage girl had been kidnapped and her kidnapper were making this much of a public ruckus, there would be news helicopters, police vehicles everywhere, roadblocks, the SWAT team. It’s a white girl in trouble, people! He never would have gotten past the first car that tried to stop him.

Well, gee, maybe it was one of those missed-it-by-an-inch things where the cops arrive immediately after he’s fled the scene. Serendipity and whatever. Fine. But that doesn’t explain the fact that she has a cell phone and they don’t trace her location.

Oh, silly me. Her cell phone is disposable, and therefore they can’t get an exact location. Why a teenager in clothes as nice as hers has a disposable phone instead of a family plan and a Droid is beyond me. Not to mention: the sloppy you-can’t-trace-prepaid-phones explanation is just not true.

I get that this is, on the whole, a really successful genre: the damsel-in-distress and personal vendetta all wrapped into one. I mean, Liam Neeson did it. Twice. The difference is that his character in Taken and Taken 2 was trying to rescue his kidnapped daughter. So he kind of, you know, had personal stock in the matter. I could suspend my disbelief for Taken. I could even put aside my “Seriously again?!” incredulity for the sequel.

There is no suspension of disbelief in this film, because it could never happen. Halle Berry has a really bad perm. Disposable phones aren’t traceable. A kidnapper kills several bystanders in a messy way, and he still gets away. A 9-1-1 operator gets personally involved instead of returning to her turkey on rye.

Honestly, all of this could have been solved by saying that it took place in the 1980s or 90s. Seriously: her hair would make sense. There would be no sloppy throw-away explanation of the untraceable cell phone. Witnesses wouldn’t be able to call the police on their phones when they spotted the killer. I mean, the whole personal involvement thing would still be eyebrow-raising, but it could be that one exceptional detail that makes this movie worth watching.

You could actually put yourself into her shoes and say, “Yeah, if I were a 9-1-1 operator, I would totally try to rescue people in trouble.” Even though you would probably just sit there like a fat turd, munching on Cheetos while someone was being stabbed, you could at least pretend to relate to Berry’s character. Instead, we have this monstrosity.

Life is in the details. And The Call has just pushed me over that invisible edge. I expect this sort of stuff from kids’ movies, because the only thing worth paying attention to is the slapstick-y humor. And the colors. Oooh, colors. If you’re going to insult viewer intelligence like this, take it out of our universe. Add some supernatural shit, so you can fudge the details. Then, at least, you’ll get the Twilight army on your side.

What bothers me about this movie, when it comes down to it, is this: whoever is making these movies is doing so under the assumption that the general viewership is made up of unthinking, brain dead idiots. While I would hope that we are so much more than that, I’m not sure the 71% audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes would agree with me.

In the mean time, I hope you all enjoy your marked up movie popcorn, dummies. And you better hope that, if you ever get kidnapped, whoever answers your distress call doesn’t really want to eat lunch anyways.

4 Comments on “The Suspension of Disbelief (I Can’t)

  1. Well, I agree that Hollywood has been putting out a lot of crap for years. I have yet to see a remake of any movie that was better than the original. For me, they’ve always been a disappointment from “War of the Worlds” to the “Wild Wild West”. And all those blood and gore movies are just plain crap. I used to love horror movies – not any more.

    Fake “butter” on way overpriced popcorn, sound cranked up so the next county can hear it and freezing to death in seats the size of a postage stamp to watch a poor quality movie in every sense of the word isn’t my idea of entertainment.

    • I hope you’re not referring to the 1999 Will Smith GEM. Kenneth Branagh is my boo, and he would never act in a shitty movie.

      But in all seriousness, have you seen “Cabin in the Woods”? If not, check it out. I think you’d like it. It pokes fun at the horror genre–it manages to be totally fresh and creative while using all the tropes you recognize from over the years. “Warm Bodies” is also a pretty entertaining twist on the typical romantic comedy genre, though still predictable.

      What I should have explained more in my post is that, I really think that over the years, there have been some pretty creative and fantastic remakes. Take “Clueless” for instance. Brilliant. Or “10 Things I Hate About You.” They’re remakes of classics, and they’re really well done. Granted, they’re both pretty old, but I guess the point I was trying to make is that, if done correctly, remakes have the potential to be awesome.

      • Sorry, I am referring to the remake with Wil Smith. I am a fan of the original TV series and the movie was not even close. I think when they try to deviate too far from the original, whether it’s a TV show or a book, the movie suffers. Ditto for “I, Robot”. I appreciate the effort to make the movies, but they lost a lot in the transitions.

        I wasn’t aware that “Clueless” was a remake of anything.

        I agree remakes have potential, but so far I haven’t seen it. “War of the Worlds” was worse than the original even with modern special effects. The same with “The Day the Earth Stood Still”. The feelings in the movie change with the remake and so really, change the whole reason for the movie.

      • You’re totally right, and I think the problem with remakes in this day and age is that they rely TOO heavily on special effects and not enough on casting the right people, acting, or even the script. And yeah! Clueless is Emma by Jane Austen! How crazy is that? And I can’t hate you for hating the Wild Wild West remake. If someone were to remake something from childhood that I loved like, oh, I don’t know, Doug, I would be pretty butthurt and protective of the integrity of the original.

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