Mini-Bidding War For Sundance Hit Catfish; JJ Abrams And Paramount Versus Brett Ratner?

What a weird set of potential buyers for Catfish, the documentary hit that has already been tagged as the next Paranormal Activity. Not that Catfish is anything like Paranormal Activity at all, except for the fact that it is a low budget documentary-style film (more on that in a second) and is now being courted by Paramount.

The studio is holding a test screening of the film on its lot today to see how it plays in front of a non-festival audience. JJ Abrams reportedly wants Paramount to buy the film. But much in the style of the movie's narrative, there's a late twist — Brett Ratner has come up with an offer to buy the film outright, with no audience testing necessary.

A quick recap, since we didn't review the film out of Sundance. Catfish is from first-time filmmakers Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman. It follows Schulman's brother Nev, a young New York City photographer who is contacted on Facebook by an 8-year-old painting prodigy from rural Michigan. Through phone and online interaction, he befriends her mother and falls for her hot older sister. With the filmmaking team in tow, he heads to Michigan to meet the family. Things don't go quite as planned.

Deadline Hollywood has spare details on Paramount's possible bid for the film, and on a counteroffer by Brett Ratner, who has partnered with Ryan Kavanaugh of Relativity Media. Essentially, Abrams and Jason Blum are angling for Paramount to buy the film; no word on whether they're behind the Paramount lot test screening today. An interesting point has been made: the screening invite specifies a desired for people that have "seen and enjoyed" films such as Cloverfield, Paranormal Activity, Slumdog Millionaire or An Inconvenient Truth.

The more interesting question about Catfish may be whether it is as truthful as it claims to be. Movieline has an intriguing article about the film that argues there is no way the filmmakers could have failed to realize certain things about the people they were talking to. As someone who Googles an unfamiliar number that pops up on my phone before I call back, I'd have to echo that sentiment. (This is not having seen the film — pure armchair commentary here, and meant to be taken as such.) Beware spoilers if you check the Movieline article, but expect to hear questions about truth levied against the film in the future.