Reviewed by: Sheri McMurray
Teens and Adults
1 hr. 44 min.
Year of Release:
July 23, 2004 (wide)
The magic of going to a movie, especially one patterned after a great comic book character or a biographical record, is what you take home with you. I find it impossible to pass a phone booth without a vision of Superman, baffled at one that was freestanding and wondering how he could possibly whip himself into that old Superman cape without a door. An old fashioned water pump brings back, not memories of Grandma, but of Helen Keller’s absolute rapture at knowing for the first time what W-A-T-E-R really was. Every time I see a spider these days I see Peter Parker getting that stinging bite from the bug that will change his whole life. And, if I might indulge the older crowd a bit, who can now take a shower without checking around the curtain every once and a while after seeing Psycho?
This type of memory movie branding is what I so much wanted to take home after experiencing Catwoman, but alas upon seeing my tabby slink past the couch, my cat remains… well, my cat.
Halle Berry is so beautiful, who would not want to see her model anything, but in this movie we didn’t want to see how great she looked in that skin tight leather catsuit or how stunning her makeup was or how far she could swing those hips down a catwalk (pun intended). We wanted to get the feel for how she was transformed, and how it transformed her very life as well as those around her she loved or needed to avenge. Instead, we got a glorified fashion show with no real substance.
This is sad when we know she can deliver in a dramatic role, or take us with her through tongue-in-cheek humor. I remember seeing her for the first time as “Queen,” the real life historical figure who was Kunta Kinte’s grandmother (an offshoot of the “Roots” saga) so many years ago, and knowing she would go far. She has and will continue to succeed, I am positive of that, but I prefer to see her give dramatic life to something from her heart and soul, which is what she truly excels at.
Patience Phillips (played sweetly enough by Halle Berry at this point) is working as an artist for an advertising firm and has been commissioned to produce an ad campaign for the top notch cosmetics moguls The Hedares headed by the menacing Mrs. Laurel Hedare (Sharon Stone doing her best to be the snarling villainess which turns out to be lethargic at best). The shy and unaggressive Patience works hard into the night, trying to make her deadline by midnight. When she is unable to get a service to deliver her assignment to the Hedare building on time, she races there to deliver it in person.
It is there that she accidentally comes across the toxic secret of the Hedare’s new facial cream, Beau-line. It is in fact an addictive drug that unmercifully scars it’s user and can only be kept from this disastrous outcome if applied every day of the unknowing user’s life—forever. Holy Face Cream, Batman! Oops, that’s another story… anyway…
When she is found lurking around, as this terrible secret is revealed, Hedare’s henchmen are sent after her and complete the job of killing her off—or so they think. Unbeknownced to them, Miss Phillips has forged a friendship with a neighborhood cat who gather’s his feline gang together to give her another life as a vengeful, cat-nip loving, fish-slurping, dominatrix Barbie-Catwoman who always lands on her feet! Just the type of girl we all would like hanging out with our pre-teen daughters, or so Director Jean-Christophe Comer (or “Pitof” as his friends at the movie credit department like to call him) thinks we would.
Now Patience, re-born as Catwoman (Halle Berry now loses the grasp on her character and spends the rest of the movie ineptly hissing, prowling and prancing around) has the chance to use her newfound freedom to do just about anything she wants sexually, vengefully and not short of robbery, making it hard to relate to her on any level. Is she our heroine or is she an out of control vixen-kitty?
By tracing her cat friend back to it’s rightful owner, Ophelia Powers (Frances Conroy), Patience finds that her true need as a woman in this world is to live her life untamed and unafraid, whatever that means. The history of her new identity is rooted in ancient Egyptian cultic lore and for some special kitties down through history as herself, has enabled them to get in touch with their inner feline and uncage the panther within. I don’t get it… is that a good thing?
Unfortunately, for him, she has met Detective Tom Lone (Benjamin Bratt trying his best to be believable) who has fallen in love with the sweet Patience and is willing to accept her as herself. The good Detective winds up getting used by the Catwoman in Patience and discarded in the end through a dear-John type goodbye letter.
Catwoman has the final meow winning the anti-climactic cat-fight with marble-skinned Laurel Hedare in the end. The movie Mom said it best here, and I quote: “There are rules to costume crusader stories and one of them is that the bad guys have to be just as fantastic in their own way as their counterparts” and Sharon Stone just does not do her character that justice. The ending is disappointing, and I found myself looking at my watch and yawning. Yet, as in all super hero flicks, the bad guys are beat (or whipped into shape for this one) and beauty cream slathering women all over planet earth are saved from unimaginable destruction this time.
This film is full of mystical half-baked ideas about what Catwoman came from. None of these pictorial or so-called spiritual descriptions of Egyptian cults and/or witchcraft hit home with me. The story ideas and characters that could have worked were skimmed over and not developed enough. Sharon Stone’s character could have been so much more menacing. Benjamin Bratt’s detective started out right, but was lost under Catwoman’s shadow.
I suppose the old adage applies here since there were six (count 'em six) screen writers, too many cooks do indeed spoil the broth. It is obvious that the story tellers were trying to get all women to rally around the tired idea that for women to have power they must be powerful. That just is not true. For a woman to be sweet and loving as the Patience Phillips character portrays is the real power all woman really have and not enough of us tap into. Why is it that so many movies these days ask us to be someone we are not? What is so wrong with our real ordinary selves? God loves us for just what we are. There is no need to mask over who we are with Him nor do we need to do this with those who truly love us for what and who we are.
Refreshingly enough, this film had not one swear word, but unfortunately, what it lacked in bad language it more than made up for in sexual innuendo, character defamation, mean-spirited dialogue and even making stealing acceptable behavior (and this is from the “good guy” Catwoman). I could not find one character in this movie that would be an acceptable role model, not even our favored feline.
The PG-13 rating “for some sensuality,” I consider a gross understatement. Catwoman exudes perverse sensuality in almost every scene along with references to sex (in any form) and adultery.
My plea to Warner Brothers is to not subject us to a sequel. This version of the comic book character does not have enough meow power to sustain one life, nine lives or any sequel-life. If your family would like to see what the true Catwoman character can dish out, I suggest renting “Batman Returns” for the treat of Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman. In addition, Catwoman lovers everywhere (as far as renting goes) save your hard earned movie ticket money on this flick—wait and rent it later, or better yet as this just is not purrrr-fect, you won’t miss anything by not seeing it at all.
Families should discuss with kids what it means to be honest and accountable for their actions. A true hero is one who not only saves innocent people, but becomes an example of decency, at any cost to their own needs, and honesty even when it might be easier for them to be dishonest. It is not enough to beat the bad guys, our heros (or heroines) must be worthy of the trust others have put in them. Jesus wouldn’t be much of a savior if he instructed us to do one thing while He went off and did whatever the flesh told Him to do. He is our “hero” because He lived the exact life He so much wants us to lead as well. That is why we can put our complete trust in His Word—because He is unfailing in His example for us!