ChildCare Action Project (CAP): Christian Analysis of American Culture


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Entertainment Media Analysis Report
A service to His little ones (which includes at-home teens) through you, their parents and grandparents, in His name by His Word

Phone Booth (2003), R
Analysis Date: April 4, 2003
CAP Score: 24 out of 100
CAP Influence Density: 7.19

MinMax: --73

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ALERT: To fully understand this report you should first visit the topics suggested by the CAP Site Map (Table of Contents). Further, if you do not want the plot, ending, or "secrets" of a movie spoiled for you, skip the Summary/Commentary. In any case, be sure to visit the Findings/Scoring section -- it is completely objective to His Word and is the heart of the CAP Entertainment Media Analysis Model applied to this movie.

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If Scriptural references appear, the full text appears at the end of the Summary / Commentary likely using a mix of KJV and NIV.

PHONE BOOTH (2003), R ...there is but one phone booth on 53rd and 8th streets of Manhattan.

Cast/Crew Details Courtesy Internet Movie Database
Production (US): Zucker/Netter
Distribution (US): Fox 2000 Pictures
Director(s): Joel Schumacher
Producer(s): Ted Kurdyla, Gil Netter, Eli Richbourg, David Zucker
Written by/Screenplay: Larry Cohen (written by)
Cinematography/Camera: Matthew Libatique
Music: Harry Gregson-Williams
Film Editing: Mark Stevens
Casting: Mali Finn
Production Design: Andrew Laws
Art Direction: Martin Whist
Viewed At: Loews Cineplex Cityview, Fort Worth, Texas

Of the millions of phones in New York and of the billions of phone connections made, there is but one phone booth on 53rd and 8th streets of Manhattan. Stu Shepard (Colin Farrell) uses it for less-than-honorable reasons.

Note that while the poster shows a November 15 release date, release was postponed for profiling reasons regarding Minority Report in which he starred as Federal cop Ed Witwer, then postponed again due to last fall's sniper attacks in DC.

Stu Shepard is a hustler and liar. He makes his living as a "press agent" promoting celebrity affairs, promising truckloads of celebrities in exchange for favors and money. Stu is married to Kelly (Radha Mitchell). Stu also has on the hook younger and prettier Pamela McFadden (Katie Holmes). That is why he uses the public phone booth - to avoid calls to Pamela appearing on his cell phone bill so Kelly wouldn't find out. But someone with a god complex knows. He knows all about Stu's behaviors. One day, from that lonely phone booth on 53rd and 8th, Stu gets a call from the Caller (Kiefer Sutherland).

At this point I want to mention Sutherland's oratory skills were exemplary and convincing. It was easy to paint a mental picture of the Caller just by Sutherland's voice and his inflection skills. Together with Farrell's skills the entire episode, as vulgar as it was, was indeed attention-keeping. It was so thorough and detailed it would be easy for almost anyone to imagine themselves in the position of Shepard ... or the Caller. And that is a problem.

The Caller with his god complex was out to force Shepard to repent and redeem himself of his sins against all those to whom he had lied, especially to Kelly and Pamela. The Caller told Shepard that if Shepard hung up he would kill Shepard -- with a "30-ought 6" rifle from a nearby window. So, Shepard had to repent and redeem himself or die. Redemption of our sins is possible only through the Saving Grace of Jesus Christ, but at least it is a choice [Heb. 5:9]. Redemption, as vain as it might be, at gunpoint is not.

Stu was not convinced. Even though the Caller explains to Stu that an exit wound from that distance would be about the size of a small tangerine, Stu was not convinced. A demonstration is provided as the Caller blows apart a street vendor's small wind-up toy robot near the base of the phone booth. Now convinced, Stu picked up parts of the toy, making it appear Stu destroyed the toy. The vendor demanded Stu pay for the toy. To avoid the vendor getting involved and possibly killed, Stu paid for it. Though he did not have to pay, he did. For the vendor's sake, not his own. Much like Jesus paid for our sins without ever having sinned Himself. Jesus did not have to pay the price of our sins, but He did [Matt. 26:53]. For our sakes, not His own. Whose the man?

As the terrorism continues, a gaggle of prostitutes and their pimp become involved. One of them was tired of waiting to use "her phone" and demanded Stu leave her phone booth. After some name-calling and other colorful discussion between Stu and the prostitute, she whined to her pimp who decided to force Stu out of the phone booth with a baseball bat. During the flurry of swings and glass flying (which is odd since phone booths use plastic panes, not glass), the Caller kept asking Stu if he wanted some help. Finally Stu muttered "Yes" and the Caller took out the pimp with one shot. Now the prostitutes think Stu killed their pimp. And by their accounting of the shooting, the world also thinks Stu shot the pimp. And so do the police.

Now the law becomes involved as Capt. Ramey (Forest Whitaker) brings his gentle giant presence to the plot. While quite capable of taking out the accused shooter in an instant, Ramey felt there was more to the picture than what was obvious.

There is much more to this episode of "angry god" redemption, but I'll leave that to those who decide to watch this show even after knowing that which we reveal in the Findings/Scoring section. Suffice it to say that aside from the constant use of threats to intimidate, the saturation of the plot with prostitutes clearly dressed as prostitutes [Prov. 6:25 - 26] and the two graphic murders, this movie is one of the most vulgar available in terms of the use of foul, filthy language [Col. 3:8, Prov. 8:13]. At least 122 uses of the most foul of the foul words in 74 minutes peppered this film plus 44 uses of other examples of the three/four letter word vocabulary [Prov. 22:11] plus 19 uses of God's name in vain, six with the four letter expletive and 13 without [Deut. 5:11].


If needed to focus or fortify, applicable text is underlined or bracketed [ ]. If you wish to have full context available, the Blue Letter Bible is a convenient source. If you use the Blue Letter Bible, a new window will open. Close it to return here or use "Window" in your browser's menu bar to alternate between the CAP page and the Blue Letter Bible page.

  • Heb. 5:9 And being made perfect, he [Jesus] became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him; [God has given each of us the freedom of choice, whether to obey Him or disobey Him. It is our choice. And by not making the choice, the choice is made.]
  • Matt. 26:53 Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels? [When the men arrived to take Jesus to Caiaphas for trial and crucifixion, Simon Peter took his sword and cut off the chief priest's servant, Malchus' right ear to defend Jesus against capture, then Jesus said 26:53 to Simon Peter. Twelve legions of angels would have been quite enough to defeat the combined forces against Jesus, but He did not call for them so the prophesy might be fulfilled and we be saved.]
  • Prov. 6:25 - 26 Do not lust in your heart after her beauty or let her captivate you with her [or his] eyes, for the prostitute reduces you to a loaf of bread, and the adulteress [or adulterer] preys upon your very life.
  • Col. 3:8 But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.
  • Prov. 8:13 To fear the LORD is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech.
  • Prov. 22:11 He who loves a pure heart and whose speech is gracious will have the king for his friend.
  • Deut. 5:11 Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain [shav' {shawv}: emptiness, nothingness, vanity]: for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain. [With or without the four letter expletive, the use of God's name in any way other than respect, reverence or thoughtful discussion is in vain. That includes the popular three syllable sentence with His name trailing it.]

    ***Selected Scriptures of Armour against the influence of the entertainment industry***
  • Ps. 12:8 The wicked freely strut about [e.g., create progressively vile/offensive entertainment with impunity and no consequences to younger and younger audiences every year] when what is vile is honored among men [when enough people continue to defend it, embrace it, pay for it, enjoy it, want it]. [I call attention to Ps. 12:8 to warn of the creeping desensitizing power of "entertainment."]
  • Col. 2:8 Beware lest any man [by his influence] spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.
  • 1 Cor. 15:33 (KJV) Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners. (NIV) Do not be misled: Bad company corrupts good character.
  • Jude 4 For certain men* whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change [warp, distort, falsely represent] the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord. [*men: anthropos {anth'-ro-pos}, generic, a human being, whether male or female]
  • Matt. 25:40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto [or for] one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto [or for] me.
  • Luke 17:2 It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin. [cause by teaching or example]
  • Ps. 119:133 Direct my footsteps according to your word; let no sin rule over me.
  • John 14:15 If ye love me, keep my commandments.
  • 1 Thess. 5:22 Abstain from all appearance of evil.


    As always, it is best to refer to the Findings/Scoring section -- the heart of the CAP analysis model -- for the most complete assessment possible of this movie.


    Phone Booth (2003) CAP Thermometers

    Wanton Violence/Crime (W)
  • threats to kill, tormenting, terrorism, almost constant
  • beating
  • gunfire to kill
  • "pretend" gunfire death using rubber bullets

    Impudence/Hate (I)
  • 122 uses of the most foul of the foul words
  • 44 uses of the three/four letter word vocabulary
  • lies, frequent

    Sex/Homosexuality (S)
  • suggestive eye movement
  • verbal sex play, talk
  • homosexual comment
  • nudity in advertisement
  • prostitution, frequent
  • vulgar movements
  • vulgar dress, frequent
  • adultery

    Drugs/Alcohol (D):
  • smoking, repeatedly

    Offense to God (O)
  • six uses of God's name in vain with the four letter expletive and 13 without
  • "god" complex

    Murder/Suicide (M)
  • gunfire murder, graphic
  • knife murder, graphic

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    NOTE: While the Summary/Commentary section of these reports is precisely that -- a summary in commentary format which can be and sometimes is subjective, the actual CAP Analysis Model (the Findings/Scoring section) makes no scoring allowances for trumped-up "messages" to excuse, for manufacture of justification for, or camouflaging of ignominious content or aberrant behavior or imagery with "redeeming" programming. Disguising sinful behavior in a theme/plot does not excuse the sinful behavior of either the one who is drawing pleasure or example of behavior or thought from the sinful display or of the practitioners demonstrating the sinful behavior. We make no attempt to quantify the "artistic" or "entertainment" value of a movie -- whether a movie has any positive value or "entertainment" value is up to mom/dad. The CAP analysis model is the only known set of tools available to parents and grandparents which give *them* the control they need, bypassing the opinion-based assessment of movies by others and defeating the deceit of those who would say anything to convince their parents otherwise. The model is completely objective to His Word. Our investigation standards are founded in the teachings and expectations of Jesus Christ. If a sinful behavior is portrayed, it is called sinful whether Hollywood tries to make it otherwise. That the sinful behavior is "justified" by some manufactured conditions does not soften nor erase the price of sin. Whether there is application of fantasy "justification" or "redemption" is up to mom/dad.

    "There are some in the entertainment industry who maintain that 1) violent programming is harmless because no studies exist that prove a connection between violent entertainment and aggressive behavior in children, and 2) young people know that television, movies, and video games are simply fantasy. Unfortunately, they are wrong on both accounts." And "Viewing violence may lead to real life violence." I applaud these associations for fortifying 1 Cor. 15:33. Read the rest of the story. From our more than eight years of study, I contend that other aberrant behaviors, attitudes, and expressions can be inserted in place of "violence" in that statement. Our Director - Child Psychology Support, a licensed psychologist and certified school psychologist concurs. For example, "Viewing arrogance against fair authority may lead to your kids defying you in real life." Or "Viewing sex may lead to sex in real life." Likewise and especially with impudence, hate and foul language. I further contend that any positive behavior can be inserted in place of "violence" with the same chance or likelihood of being a behavior template for the observer; of being incorporated into the behavior mechanics and/or coping skills of the observer. In choosing your entertainment, please consider carefully the "rest of the story" and our findings.

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