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‘Waterworld’ Reaction: From ‘Great’ to ‘Gibberish’

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Now that “Waterworld’s” publicity tidal wave has ebbed, what matters most to the makers of “Waterworld” is what the paying public thinks.

What moviegoers think, however, isn’t as crystal-clear as the waters depicted in the $175-million Kevin Costner film.

“I thought it was little more than your typical dumb-witted, action jock movie,” said Kendra McLeigh, a 22-year-old UCLA student who saw the film in Westwood on Monday. “I’m not going to recommend it to anyone.”

McLeigh’s boyfriend, meanwhile, 23-year-old Aaron Sewitt, had a different take on the film and said he would recommend it.

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“Yeah, it was really just an action movie, but it was a good one--better than any other action movies out this summer,” Sewitt said, pointing to “Under Siege 2: Dark Territory,” “Judge Dredd” and “Die Hard With a Vengeance.”

McLeigh and Sewitt were representative of the divergent opinions among randomly interviewed fans who saw “Waterworld” at the Westwood Avco and Beverly Connection theaters on Monday. Younger men often appreciated it as an intelligent, original action flick, while many women were disappointed because they felt there wasn’t much more to it than action.

To probably no surprise, males in their teens and 20s seemed to give the film its most positive reviews.

“You could tell where the money went,” said Steven Samuels, 19, of North Hollywood. “The sets were great, the stunts were great, and I think it paid off for them.”

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What may be surprising, though, is that young men alone might have to propel Universal’s hoped-for word-of-mouth campaign.

“I just thought with that kind of a budget, it would blow me away. It didn’t,” said Samuels’ friend, 18-year-old Carla Huerta.

“I really had an open mind going into it, but I just couldn’t enjoy it,” said Jeanne Green, 20, of Westwood.

Moviegoers in their 30s and older leaned toward the negative, but the gender lines weren’t so clearly drawn. Some of those women did say they liked it, while a lot of men said the opposite.

The men were often critical of the film’s large budget and grand-scale sets and stunts.

“I thought it was just gibberish,” said Ray Fienberg, 43, of West Los Angeles. “And very expensive gibberish at that.”

But for some of the women, “Waterworld” star Costner seemed to be what made the movie.

“I just thought [Costner] was great,” said Lisa Morrison, 44, of Los Angeles. “I love him in anything, though.”

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One group that seemed to be largely absent in “Waterworld” theaters on Monday was families. While the fact it was a weeknight may have been a factor, the film’s PG-13 rating--stemming from violence, profanity and brief nudity--may keep some parents from bringing children, especially with the large crop of G and PG movies currently in theaters.

But Lorie Allan, 35, of Westwood, who saw the film with her 9-year-old son, Joshua, said she thinks “Waterworld” is a good family movie.

“There wasn’t anything in there that most kids can’t handle,” Allan said. “And it was real fun. It was that sort of fantasy world film that kids really love. I think I probably would recommend it to other parents.”

Joshua offered only a thumbs-up for his review. Right now, “Waterworld” will take all the thumbs-ups it can get.


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