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Every so often there comes along a movie that his preceded with so much hype that film goes flock to see it only to realize that there is no substance behind the media blitz. Such a film is Catwoman. This film even made it have the main cast appear on Oprah in a desperate attempt to reverse the bad publicity and even worse word of mouth. To say the plot is flimsy is being overly generous to the writers, who should have been placed in some witness protection program lest they write again. Patience Phillips (Halley Berry) is a designer that works for a cosmetics company that has a new product that will bestow the look of eternal beauty on the user unless they stop using it resulting in they consumer taking on the look of one of the extras in Night of the Living Dead. Married couple George Hedare (Lambert Wilson) and his wife Laurel (Sharon Stone) are the nefarious duos at the heart of this insidious plot. Patience discovers the scheme, is chased by security guards and is washed out of a drainage pipe dead, only to be resurrected by the CGI cat, Midnight. Unfortunately, this computer augmented feline turns in just about the best performance in the film. Patience is transformed into Catwoman, able to leap, fall great heights and sleep on a shelve. There is some exposition that she is one of a long line of women first created with the Egyptians and fortunate for poor Patience Midnight had the mystical ability to breath life back into her. Too bad he could not perform the same miracle for the film. There is a mandatory love interest of sort in the form of Benjamin Bratt as the sensitive cop that falls for Patience. Naturally, their romance is as doom as this flick.

To be fair, there are some redeeming points to be made about the movie. The fundamental premise is interesting but removed from the Batman mythology it is too thin to stand on its own fully. The threads of rebirth, revenge and superhuman abilities are usually a good combination, it speaks to some private interest in most people. This is a case where the film was just not guided in the right direction. The components were there but not added in the accurate measure. There is a certain camp quality to the film that holds together, an energy that infuses it. Sadly, this is not enough today; with films like Spider-Man 2, it has been proven that a comic book flick can have actual substance. The action is predictable and has been done better; the characters are for the most part stereotypes. Severa; moments are such that they were able to draw me into the flick, almost against my will. Three is an old time DC comic book feel that returned me to the days of summer vacation reading old comics. The fact is this film is destined to become a cult classic, a film that you watch with your friends on a Saturday afternoon over a pizza and a lot of beer.

This is an excellent cast misused at almost every turn. To think that Halle Berry stood before the world to accept the coveted Academy Award is reduced to this. I guess we all have a bill to pay. Although Berry has considerable talent as an actress it was not her skills as a thespian that garnered her this role; it was her buff physique. Unlike former stars that took on the role of Catwoman, Michelle Pfeiffer, Julie Newmar and Eartha Kitt, Berry overplays the sexuality of the characters. The other actresses hinted at sex; Berry has to make every movement seductive. Part of this is the costume or rather a lack of costume she was given. It looks more than a Greenwich Village dominatrix outfit that something a superhuman crime fighter would wear, not than any person in the world with a ‘Y’ chromosome would complain. Sharon Stone is another actress that has demonstrated talent, but here her character is one-dimensional, lacking any interest. She does not need any cream to remain eternally youthful and appealing. Benjamin Bratt drifts through his part almost on autopilot. There is a lack of actual chemistry between him and Berry.

This film was directed, for lack of a better phrase, by Jean-Christophe Comar, known professionally simply as Pitof. Okay, enough of this pretentious trend of one named people. His resume lists a lot of previous work in graphic design for many French films, something that has greatly influenced his style here. He created a film that is all style with little substance. The movie is more concerned with the look instead of the story. Pitof does manage to avoid the pitfalls of the current trend of having the steady-cam in constant motion. He holds the camera in one place and let the actors move about, a refreshing change from something like The Bourne Supremacy where motion sickness pills should be included in the box set. Coming from the world of graphic arts Pitof has a natural eye for composing a scene. He places the actors amidst impressive backgrounds and visually the film is entertaining. The use of CGI was not up to contemporary standards, they are a tad amateurish, but it could be said that this only adds to the camp appeal of the flick.

The disc is well done. The Dolby 5.1 was a little heavy on the low end resulting in a pounding subwoofer. The rear speakers did contribute to the overall sound field and provided some excellent special effects as well as general ambiance. The anamorphic video version of the film (there are a pan and scan, but we wouldn’t even consider that one), is well balanced. There is a tendency to overuse color filters in the film, but that is a directorial decision instead of a fault of the transfer. There is a good contrast between the dark scenes and light displaying no audible artifacts. The extras include several alternate scenes, not that their inclusion or exclusion affected the overall film. There are also alternate endings, none of which would have rectified the problems with the chosen ending. The HBO making of featurette is standard and tries too hard to so enthusiastically. While the film missed its intended mark, it might be good for a laugh or two, unintentional as they are.

Posted 12/26/04            007/06/2017

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