BURBANK, CA—Moviegoers coast to coast hailed Catwoman, the new action film starring Halle Berry, as not as much of an unforgivably awful piece of formulaic commercial pabulum as it could have been.
"You know, I have to hand it to Warner Bros.," Miami resident Tom Peebles said Monday. "Catwoman was terrible, but it actually had one or two decent parts. I really have to say: It could have been a lot worse!"
Catwoman, loosely based on the DC Comics character, has similarly shattered other viewers' bottom-of-the-barrel expectations, offering a small number of redeeming features instead of the expected none.
"That one part where the woman pushes Catwoman off a balcony to demonstrate that she can land on her feet was sort of cool, I guess," said Bangor, ME's Sally Burrows. "And it was kind of funny when she ate, like, 10 cans of tuna in a row. Oh, and when she drank that glass of cream at the bar—that was, though not exactly funny, at least funny-ish. My kids seemed to like it. Well, Mindy, at least."
"Mindy just turned 7," Burrows added.
According to Ivan Berger, a self-described film buff, Catwoman trailers—featuring atrocious computer-generated animation, cringe-worthy shots of Berry snapping a whip to intolerable R&B music, and love interest/cop sidekick Benjamin Bratt's flirtatious mugging—set audience expectations very low.
"At first glance, Catwoman, the story of a sexy feline superhero who fights villains in the cosmetics industry, seemed like the kind of formulaic, committee-written marketing opportunity—Garfield, New York Minute, and so on—that has become the summer-movie standard," Berger said. "To everyone's surprise, Catwoman proved marginally better than that."
"Judging from the ads, I assumed I'd want my eight bucks back," Berger added. "But after seeing the movie, I was pleasantly surprised to find I only wanted three, maybe four bucks back, tops."
A half-realized camp attitude, which suggested that the filmmakers were aware of the film's poor quality, impressed viewers, as well.
"After seeing a billboard with Halle Berry vamping around in that ridiculous outfit, I really thought I'd have to leave midway through," Los Angeles resident Brian Gunderson said. "But you know what? Some of the action scenes were halfway non-shitty. Definitely curb—as opposed to gutter—level. Also, I found myself paying attention to the character development once or twice. I guess I underestimated it. I'd say it actually merits one and a half stars."
Critics joined moviegoers to applaud Catwoman for not having been worse. Tom Dickinson of WHO-TV in Des Moines called Catwoman a movie that "doesn't exactly roar, but does kind of purr at times, I guess." Ellen Norbury of Hollywood Reviews Online said, "It's a better-than-failed effort, sure to provide two or three halfway-fun moments."
Some industry insiders hope the film signals an end to the "worst-possible" trend in motion pictures.
"Catwoman bucks the trend established by such recent blockbusters as Troy and Van Helsing, which met audience predictions head-on by being exactly as bad as they seemed like they would be," media analyst Roy Oglive said. "It's possible that Catwoman will increase audience expectations, making them judge subsequent releases by a harsher standard. The American viewing public may actually come to expect movies not to be totally horrible."
Unfortunately, Oglive said, that may prove to be both a blessing and a curse.
"If moviegoers forget to keep their expectations low, the occasional almost-okay moments in Catwoman will lead to further disappointments down the road," Oglive said. "When the next League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen comes along, they'll be devastated."
In the meantime, moviegoers are relishing the experience of a night out at the movies that they don't completely hate.
"It's so refreshing to take the family out to what you assume will be the absolute worst movie of the year, and then find out it's only among the year's worst movies," said Janice Davenport, 27, of Jeffersontown, KY. "Catwoman is the kind of once-in-a-blue-moon summer blockbuster that makes going to the movies slightly less non-fun again."