Review: “Catwoman”

Not as bad as expected which is to say it’s plain awful rather than damn terrible, “Catwoman” is a more contemporary urban take on the “Batman” villainess which gets rid of any Dark Knight references and turns the character into a woman out to do a good deed – in this case consumer protection from evil industrialists. There’s potential there and an admittedly interesting visual palette from French Director Pitof, but otherwise this is one big cat-astrophe that can only be enjoyed on a camp level (and even then it’s struggling).

The main question to ask is why did we need this project? After all back in 1992 came the ultimate Catwoman in the form of Michelle Pfieffer’s sanity-shattered leather clad vixen in “Batman Returns”. Berry’s Catwoman in comparison is not even remotely interesting enough for Pfieffer to clean her claws with let alone devote an entire movie too. Dressed in ripped leather pants, boostier and a slightly re-modeled Mickey Mouse club helmet, Berry does exude sexiness even if it is through a ridiculously laughable costume in which she swaggers with all the air of a Vegas showgirl. The S&M crowd will love it.

Still, even the stupidest costume can be forgiven if the story and players are strong enough, well that you can forget. This isn’t Selena Kyle but Patience Price – a similarly talented but skittish corporate slave who witnesses something she shouldn’t, is killed, revived by cats and reinvented as a athletic sexy girl with a whip. Whilst all of that seems entirely lifted from “Batman Returns”, it forgets the other elements that made that Catwoman unforgettable – her evil streak, the dark unstable side that both terrified and excited her, the mood shifts between ravenous sexuality and homicidal violence, and the witty one-liners.

Berry’s over the top work is equally matched by Sharon Stone. Stone’s villainess draws laughs but for all the wrong reasons, most notably being that no matter where she goes, she’s constantly bathed in diffuse light and shot through soft focus lens (this makes conversational scenes with her entertaining). Alex Borstein as Berry’s workmate has some fun, but what in the hell is someone like “Six Feet Under” actress Conroy (as a cat history mentor) doing in crap like this?

The script isn’t much better as it not only steals considerably from other movies but makes all sorts of stupid logic leaps and dim setups that lack any plausibility. Bratt and Berry do have a decent chemistry which shines through some awful banter, and the pair’s big scenes (a basketball game and a fight) are the film’s only real highlights. Berry may have gotten into shape but she relies a lot on Pitof’s CG trickery to help her whilst the ending one-on-one with the ‘marble skin’ Stone feels more like a bad workout video than a real fight.

Pitof overdoes the cinematography for visual flair like he did in “Vidocq”, but that at least had an interesting idea behind it. Music is the standard rock soundtrack you’d expect, although the opening credits montage of catwomen in history is a solid idea. As superhero movies go this is better than say “Batman & Robin” and “Superman 4”, but really that’s about all it beats. This is one purr-fect failure whose only real entertainment value will be in the future watching insecure hetero male teenagers keenly begging to watch Tobey Maguire in spandex or Ben Affleck in red leather over Halle Berry in a black bra.