Halle Berry's ill-fated Batman spin-off isn't quite as bad as expected

Director: Pitof

Starring: Halle Berry, Benjamin Bratt, Sharon Stone


Plot Summary: Graphic designer Patience Philips (Berry) accidentally discovers that her employer Hedare Cosmetics' new product, an anti-aging cream, has terrible side effects. Soon after, a mystical twist of fate grants her catlike superpowers.

Her adventures are complicated by her relationship with Tom Lone (Bratt), a cop who has fallen for Patience but can't shake his fascination with the mysterious Catwoman, who appears to be responsible for a string of crimes.

Review: If you follow the film world at all, you've probably heard that Catwoman sucks.

I'm not about to challenge that view - it's pretty bad - but it isn't quite the car wreck you might be expecting.

Sadly, the only thing seriously wrong with Catwoman is the Catwoman character herself.

Unfortunately, though, everything that possibly could be wrong with the Catwoman character is horribly, terribly wrong.

The screenplay takes huge liberties with the comic book creation, bringing in an entirely new back-story and alter-ego for Catwoman - out goes orphan acrobat Selena Kyle and in comes the supernaturally enhanced Patience Philips.

That, in itself, isn't a problem - this is a relatively minor DC character, after all, not Anna Karenina. The problem is that the new character is just plain silly.

Everything from the way Catwoman looks (S&M fancy dress) through to the way she moves (woeful CGI) is misjudged.

The conflict between the shy, sensitive Patience Philips and sexy, aggressive Catwoman - representative, the movie claims, of the duality in all women - should be the emotional heart of the movie.

Instead, it's a farce, handled with even less subtlety than you might reasonably expect from a blockbuster Batman spin-off.

Similarly, the idea that Catwoman is half-woman, half-cat is treated with all the subtlety of an inflatable hammer, so we get Berry eating tuna straight from the tin, Berry drinking cream, Berry hissing at dogs, Berry sleeping on a ledge… She's a cat! She's a cat! We get it!

Tom Lone, apparently the only detective in the generic North American city where Catwoman is set (not Gotham City), is even more simplistic - more of a well-chiseled plot device than a character.

Some of the scenes between Patience and Lone - particularly a one-on-one-basketball/flirtation sequence, set, music video-style, to Misteeq's poppy R 'n' B - are so bad that they seem to guarantee the movie future cult status.

Frances Conroy's overblown Ophelia, the mysterious, cat-obsessed former academic who becomes Patience's tutor, also nudges the film in the direction of high camp - though, to be fair, the Six Feet Under matriarch's efforts are hobbled by some unsympathetic direction and Klaus Badelt's intrusive score.

A series of forgettable action sequences, mostly relying on tired martial arts moves, don't even come close to salvaging the movie, but not everything about Catwoman is bad.

The script contains a surprisingly high number of sharp one-liners and, beyond Berry and Bratt, some members of the cast deserve to walk away from this disaster unscathed.

Sharon Stone is particularly good as icy former model Laurel Hedare, the scheming wife of cosmetics magnate George Hedare (Lambert Wilson), striking just the right balance between cartoonish caricature and real-world vulnerability.

Wilson himself, meanwhile, is entirely competent as one of those British-accented bad guys Hollywood fell in love with after Die Hard.

Alex Borstein also makes the most of her comic sidekick role, playing Patience's man-mad friend Sally with some charm.

Catwoman, according to the official synopsis, balances on the "thin line between good and bad."

That clearly isn't true of the film as a whole, which is undeniably bad, but this ill-fated flick isn't quite as awful as some reports might lead you to believe.

Catwoman Movie Times

PTV Rating: 2 out of 5

Czech Premiere: Thursday, September 23rd, 2004
Czech Title: Catwoman
Runtime: 1 hour, 44 minutes

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