01.27.12

‘One for the Money’ Review: Does Katherine Heigl Have Fans?

Heigl quit a lucrative TV career on ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ to pursue romantic comedies, but her recent films have been lackluster. Ramin Setoodeh went to a midnight screening of her new movie, which wasn’t screened for critics, to find out what’s going on.

Midnight. Rain. Cold. Sleep. Which of these things did I not experience last night? On Friday morning at 12:01 a.m., I went to the movies to see One for the Money, the new Katherine Heigl crime caper that’s so lousy the studio wouldn’t screen it early for critics. I had to watch it at the first public showing in a Manhattan theater, with all of Heigl’s groupies, if they exist. Here’s what happened, as recorded in real-time on my BlackBerry.

11:36 p.m. Thursday night. I arrive at the theater, and whew, it’s not sold out. A woman who sells me a ticket—$13 of my money for One for the Money—said the premiere was recently held at the same venue and she got a glimpse of Heigl. “She’s a very pretty lady,” she says. “I liked her in Knocked Up.”

11:50 p.m. A 26-year-old man working at the concession stand tells me how much he enjoyed Heigl’s performance in Zack & Miri Make a Porno. I point out that Heigl was not in that film.

11:53 p.m. I find my seat. Number of people inside the theater, including me: 1.

12:00 a.m. I am still the only person here. This is worse than going to your high-school prom alone.

12:04 a.m. A few others have trickled in. Number of people inside the theater, including me: 5.

12:19 a.m. The trailers end.

12:20 a.m. The movie begins. “I’m Stephanie Plum and this is my story,” says Heigl in voice-over that sounds like she’s channeling Snooki from Jersey Shore. Stephanie was just laid off from her job at Macy’s, so she heads home for some moral support.

12:24 a.m. Debbie Reynolds plays the grandmother, who has the honor of saying, “Who wouldn’t enjoy a nice thong!?”

12:32 a.m. Heigl asks her cousin for a job as a bail-bondswoman, and she must track down the guy she lost her virginity to in high school, who is a corrupt cop—or not! His name is Joe Morelli (Jason O’Mara) and he looks like Joe Rogan from Fear Factor, with a tattoo on his chest. So far, this is worse than Gigli. It’s like Hollywood tried to remake Harriet the Spy for adults, without irony. How did Heigl get stranded in a train wreck like this?

She was once on her way to becoming America’s sweetheart, the kind of actress next in line for Sandra Bullock’s career. In 2005, when Grey’s Anatomy premiered, Heigl played the spunky intern Izzie Stevens. By Season 2, she had outshone all the other women on the show, because of a gut-wrenching story line where she fell in love with one of her patients. Ask Heigl fans (and they do exist) what they used to love about her, and they all talk about how relatable she once was. “I love the fact that she came across as being really down to Earth,” says Kim Jacobs, 54, a magazine creative director from West Orange, N.J. And Heigl held her own against Seth Rogen in 2007’s Knocked Up, as the charming/bitchy pregnant girlfriend that both men and women adored (she replaced Anne Hathaway in the part). That was then.

12:34 a.m. Heigl buys a gun and learns how to fire it. She’s wearing a suit that looks like it came from Talbot’s.

12:35 a.m. Number of people inside the theater, including me: 3. Two teen girls have already fled.

12:40 a.m. Sherri Shepherd plays a local hooker. John Leguizamo is a local shady something-or-another. They are both so over the top and cheesy in their performances, they should be considered for next year’s Razzies.

12:47 a.m. Sample dialogue between Heigl and O'Mara:

Her [with a gun]: “I am so close to blowing your head off right now.”

Him: “I don’t think you’re going to shoot me.”
Her: “Think again.”
Him: “Will you please not shoot me? It’s me.”
Her: “Fine, will you come in custody then?”
Him: “No, you’re a lunatic.”

That’s not the worst name Heigl has been called. Just as she entered the superstar orbit, the press tore her apart, for reports that she was too difficult on the set of Grey’s Anatomy. She didn’t help herself, either, by continually badmouthing the show in interviews. She finally left Grey’s in 2010 (Izzie got cancer). With her reputation tarnished, picking on Heigl became the blogosphere’s favorite pastime. “Why Does Katherine Heigl Bug Me?” asked one blogger in 2010. More recently, a post on Perez Hilton screamed: “The beginning of the end of Katherine Heigl’s career.”

Despite the current slump in her work, public opinion on Heigl has not all turned sour. Like Jennifer Aniston, she’s managed to hold to a Teflon-like exterior, that allows her to springboard from flop to the next. Maybe it’s because she made such a strong first impression. Among women between the age of 18 to 34, 80 percent reported being aware of Heigl, and her Q-score is 33, which means one third of those women named her one of their favorite celebrities. In that demographic, she outranks Cameron Diaz, Kate Winslet, and Jennifer Garner. “Younger women seem to be emotionally connecting with her,” says Henry Schafer, executive vice president of the Q-Scores company.

12:57 a.m. But they won’t keep connecting with her, if she continues to blab dialogue like this: “Sure, I had to see an old guy’s twig and berries, but at least it bought me a meal that didn’t come in a Lunchables box.”

1:03 a.m. At this point, Heigl does the impossible: handcuffed naked to her own shower pole, she’s still boring.

1:14 a.m. She’s standing in front of a hospital door, and you can’t help but long for her better days. She had more chemistry with the injured deer on Grey’s Anatomy than any of the characters in this movie.

1:25 a.m. I have left off all the details about how O'Mara is not really a corrupt cop, and he was framed, because none of this makes any sense.

1:37 a.m. Heigl is shot in the butt. Is that supposed to be a metaphor.

Her last film role was as an annoying ex-girlfriend of Jon Bon Jovi in New Year’s Eve, so it’s not exactly surprising that Heigl announced this week that she would consider returning to Grey’s Anatomy. (Which is like begging an ex-boyfriend to take you back after you’ve cheated on him over and over again.) Still, the people who like Heigl say they are hopeful that her career can take a U-turn. “She could be like Julia Roberts,” says Arlene Schwartz, 80, from Boca Roton, Fla.

1:42 a.m. The movie is finally—FINALLY!—over. The last line (no spoiler warning needed): “I’m not going to say no to a cupcake.” End credits.

“I was a bit disappointed,” said Fatma, 42, a banker from Kuwait, who went to the late showing before her flight home on Friday. She was a fan of Heigl’s slapstick comedy in some of her prior films, but she didn’t think the material connected with her this time. “It wasn’t worth me missing my sleep,” she said.

Charlie Goldberg, 50, of New York, wandered in half-way into the movie, after he watched something else. “I thought it was really strange,” said Goldberg, who is unemployed and didn’t think Heigl’s performance worked at all. “I didn’t even know why she was famous.”

Heigl may have entered the movies hoping for a career like Reese Witherspoon’s. But the truth is, with dreck like this, she could end up like another popular blonde TV actress that abandoned a hit show too soon. She must make much better choices fast. If not, ladies and gentlemen: is Katherine Heigl the next Suzanne Somers?