Joel Schumacher knows how to put on a show. Whether it be a full-blown flight of fantasy such as BATMAN AND ROBIN or the more confined space of PHONE BOOTH, in which we spend almost 90 minutes trapped in one with Colin Farrell. Schumacher may not always avoid kitsch, but he’s rarely boring. The same is true of his interviews. When I talked with him on March 26, 2003, there was little in the way of kitsch as he waxed philosophical about the way spin has permeated our lives, political and other, and on the reasons for pulling PHONE BOOTH last fall in wake of the sniper shootings on the East Coast.
One of those wise old Greeks, perhaps it was Socrates, said that the unexamined life is not worth living. And in PHONE BOOTH, there’s a psycho with a gun who’s taken that bit of philosophy way too literally. This being a Joel Schumacher film, he of FLATLINERS and BATMAN and other flights of high-flown fancy, we must think of what unfolds not so much as an exploration of the human condition, as a rootin’ tootin’ ride through the fun house with a few laughs and an interesting point or two along the way, metaphorically speaking, about how we can’t seem to free ourselves from our phones. Think about it. How many people are chatting on a cell phone right now?
On a fateful New York day, married PR pro Stu (Colin Farrell) is getting ready to make a regularly scheduled call from a phone booth to the actress he is hoping to bed when things get weird. Someone delivers a pizza to the booth. Then, after getting shot down once again by the actress, he hangs up the phone and it begins to ring. He answers, because there’s just something about a ringing phone that demands answering. On the other end is a sinister voice that knows all about Stu and he wants our PR guy to come clean to the Missus about his almost-philanderings. If he tries to leave the phone booth without calling her up on his cell phone and confessing, he’ll be shot. If he hangs up on his caller, he’ll be shot. One thing leads to another and before you can say “duck” there’s a body on the street and Stu’s getting all the wrong kind of publicity. Never mind being heckled by a group of ticked off hookers who want to use the phone.
PHONE BOOTH is kitschy, not classic. But it’s never boring, and it might just make you want to turn that cell phone off.