I made a good call on this one. In a Feb. 22 post on Halle Berry’s new movie, The Call, I wrote that “it looks like a very smart move for Berry, commercially speaking.”
I was right. The Call earned an estimated $17.1 million on its opening weekend, more than the reported $13 million the modest movie cost to make. It crushed Steve Carell’s The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, which only earned $10.3 million even though it opened on more screens. The Call still came in second, however, to Oz the Great and Powerful,which earned $42.2 million, bringing its 10-day total to $145 million.
The Call did far better than Sony expected. Nikki Finke said the performance “shocked” Hollywood. It helped that the movie opened without much new-movie competition. Why anyone thought Burt Wonderstone might be a good idea baffles me. Not even a cast that includes Carrell, Steve Buscemi, Jim Carrey, Olivia Wilde and James Gandolfini can overcome a poorly marketed film that nobody wants to see.
The Call, which I still haven’t seen, got generally bad reviews. I acknowledged in my Feb. 22 post that the movie’s plot seemed questionable. It involves a 911 operator (Berry) taking a call from a girl in jeopardy (played by Abigail Breslin). Realizing that the girl’s abductor is someone from her past, the operator then puts herself in harm’s way to save the victim. But even with that less-than-realistic plot, I thought the movie would appeal to audiences in greater numbers than Halle Berry movies usually do and might finally provide some justification for her generally unearned status as a movie star (Unearned, that is, if you define a star as someone who can put butts in seats).
Despite her historic Oscar win (for Monster’s Ball), Berry’s films generally are hits only when she’s in an X-Men movie or appearing alongside actors with drawing power.
Movies where she’s front and center tend to fail at the box office. It hasn’t helped that the movies – they include Gothika, Catwoman and Things We Lost in the Fire – haven’t been any good. They likely wouldn’t have had much audience appeal no matter who starred in them.
The Call was a smart move because people would go see the woman-in-peril/woman as hero psychokiller thriller regardless who starred. But since it’s Berry’s face blown up big on the movie poster, the movie’s success can’t help but reflect well on her.
As I wrote on Feb. 22, “The Call is going to do okay. It should do better than any movie that Berry has fronted for a while.”
The success will win her a few more big paydays. And, if she chooses well, the next time her face dominates a movie poster, it just might be for a movie that’s worth seeing.