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article imageCatwoman: Hardly the Cat's Meow

By Jason MacIsaac     Jul 22, 2004 in Lifestyle
Writing Credits: Theresa Rebeck, John D. Brancato, Michael Ferris, John Rogers. Based on characters created by Bob Kane.
Director: Pitof
Running Time: 144 minutes
Rated: PG-13
Digital Journal — Shy, awkward Patience Philips (Halle Berry) is just another drone at Hedare, an enormous cosmetics company run by husband and wife George and Laurel Hedare (Lambert Wilson and Sharon Stone). Hedare is on the eve of launching Beau-line, a miraculous new facial cream that reverses the aging process. After a night of working late, Patience accidentally learns that Beau-line has some nasty side effects that the company would rather not reveal. Hired goons give chase and Patience is soon left for dead. However, an Egyptian Mau cat, full of the power of cat goddess Bast, is determined to give Patience another chance at life, and vengeance.
For those of you who are fans of the Catwoman comic book character, here’s me getting to the point: You are not going to be happy. This Catwoman borrows from The Crow, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and the Catwoman we saw in Batman Returns. She's almost nothing like the versions seen in DC comic books.
Since I’m not a fan of the comics, I don’t particularly mind this. I just wanted to see an engaging comic book-style action movie, so I went in with as much of a blank slate as possible. Even with this mindset though, Catwoman comes up short, largely owing to scenes jumbled together, some unfortunate dialogue, and moments of high camp.
The problem is by no means Halle Berry — she really does what she can with a script that gets very silly at times. I completely buy her as clumsy and mousy Patience Philips (“Mousy.” Hmm, there’s a joke in there somewhere), and as the sly, vampy Catwoman who treats a good fight as foreplay.
But every so often, she is made to do things like scarf down seafood, hiss at people, experience a catnip rush, and deliver lines that a team of Meryl Streeps and Jodie Fosters working around the clock couldn’t make work. Expository dialogue is particularly heavy-handed.
There are also bits and pieces thrown in that are clearly meant to pay homage to previous Catwomen, like Eartha Kitt. These moments just stick out, and not in a good way. When Berry is allowed to make the performance her own, she’s usually just fine.
Also not bad is Sharon Stone, who can do Mega Bitch better than anybody, and she manages to hold back from going completely over the top. I give the movie’s second best performance though to Midnight the Cat and all her stand-ins. I’m serious — the cat handlers did a phenomenal job at making the cats play the scenes right, moving and meowing on cue. It’s just a shame this is overpowered by brutally obvious CGI cat scenes that didn’t work nearly as well.
As an action movie, it has its moments, but sadly not very many. Catwoman has many different powers, and they are well visualized with scenes of Berry gracefully leaping across rooftops and balancing on narrow ledges. Fight scenes are not as successful though, as the video editors do a lot of quick cutting that can make things hard to follow. The final round of fisticuffs with the big villain is really the only one that worked well.
Berry does her best, but the movie throws too many obstacles in her way. One such example is her costume; it’s far more suited to show off the hot Berry bod than for use as a disguise for a dark avenger of the night. Sure, superhero costumes are known for being more flashy than practical, but open-toed high heels?
I would place Catwoman above the last two Batman flicks, although this can hardly be defined as praise. And in the genre of superhero flicks, it doesn't hold a candle to Spider-Man 2.
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