The latest comic book adaptation come to life is a ridiculous and joyless effort, more likely to inspire incredulous laughter than audience enjoyment. Despite the presence of a good cast, “Catwoman” is a mess of action sequences, corporate conspiracies, and Egyptian mythology. And it’s about as enjoyable as being repeatedly pounded in the face with a forklift.
“Catwoman” jettisons any link to the Batman mythos from which the character originated, in favor of wiping the slate clean and starting over with a new protagonist. In this case, it’s Patience Phillips (Halle Berry), a meek designer at a cosmetics corporation. One night, Patience stumbles upon the lethal truth about her company’s premier product and is killed by corporate goons. But she is resurrected by an Egyptian cat God and bestowed heightened senses, amplified reflexes, and a devil may care attitude. Now she seeks justice on her murderers, all the while trying to unravel the corporate conspiracy that could threaten millions.
There’s very little to praise about “Catwoman”. Director Jean-Christophe Comar (aka Pitof, “Vidocq”) adds some nice visual sequences and gives the film a quick pace, so it’s not as unbearable as it could have been. Peter Wingfield (the “Highlander” TV show) is excellent but underused as a corporate doctor who shows he has a conscience and even a glimmer of a soul. Patience’s best friend provides some needed comic relief as she tries to hunt down Mr. Right. But focusing on these efforts is like trying to look at the bright side of an absolute disaster.
Halle Berry (“Swordfish”), an exceptionally talented actress, looks embarrassed to be in this movie and gives a performance that reflects it. Veteran Sharon Stone looks awful and is hardly believable as the glamorous wife of a cosmetics mogul. Her performance is bland, and nothing approaching the evil villainess the movie calls for. And Benjamin Bratt simply looks lost as a cop who falls for Patience, as if the actor isn’t entirely sure what to make of everything going on around him.
But the bulk of the blame is to be assigned to the script, credited to Theresa Rebeck, John Brancato, Michael Ferris, and John Rogers. With four writers toiling away on “Catwoman”, there’s simply no reason for the film to be the atrocity it is. Ditching the character’s Gotham City origins was a terrible idea, and the mythological angle comes across as just silly. The same can be said for the idea of a Catwoman being present in every time period throughout history. Its an intriguing premise, but highly fallible: If true, how come no one has heard of them until now?
“Catwoman” is to good filmmaking what a car crash is to a defensive driving course. It is the nadir of comic book films, and manages to make Roger Corman’s “Fantastic Four” seem like a masterpiece by comparison. Moviegoers should avoid this film like the plague — unless they are looking for an excellent reason to die young.
CAST: Halle Berry …. Patience Phillips/Catwoman
Benjamin Bratt …. Tom Lone
Sharon Stone …. Laurel Hedare