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Catwoman
Reviewed by Joe Crowe, © 2005

Format: Movie
By:   Pitof (one-named director)
Genre:   Superhero
Review Date:   March 10, 2005
Audience Rating:   Rated PG-13
RevSF Rating:   5/10 (What Is This?)

Catwoman is the best DC Comics movie adaptation since Batman Forever.

Which is saying only that it's better than Steel, starring basketball player-rapper Shaquille O'Neal. Now, I didn't see Steel. I'm just guessing.

First up: This Catwoman isn't the DC Comics Catwoman. She's not cat burglar-vigilante Selina Kyle, who does and/or has done it with Batman. Why do it this way, when the Selina Kyle character has been in some perfectly acceptable stories for 60 years?

I don't know, but fine. FINE. So from this point, let us not compare it to the comics Catwoman.

OK, just once. For some reason she changes her costume a couple of times, and she can't resist stealing things.

Fine, one more. The movie story mentions that there have been other Catwomen. There is only one wink-wink Get It, Comics Fans? moment in the whole flick, when a photo of Michelle Pfeiffer in her Batman Returns cat-costume is seen. There could have been more.

For one, the Crazy Exposition Cat Lady could very, very easily have been played by Julie Newmar, the first Catwoman from the 1960s Batman TV-series. The crazy cat lady is played by Frances Conroy, who looks a lot like Newmar. And that's all. I was totally expecting lines like "I like a man who wears black," or "I want to meet Batman in Gotham City, where we can ride in his Batmobile and fight The Joker."

This movie owes more to Batman Returns than any of the comics, anyway. And by that, I refuse to mention the nipples on the suits and then Halle Berry, because I am a professional. In both movies, a mousy girl is wronged by a big evil corporation, then killed, then brought back to life by cats. In Batman Returns, it was Christopher Walken. Here it's Sharon Stone, who looks a lot like Christopher Walken. Sadly, in real life there are far too many people screwed over by corporations for the cats to bring back to life. Stupid lazy cats!

We actually see the magical moment that the cat brings her to life. The cat breathes on her. Literally. A magical breath flows from his kitty mouth to her, and she wakes up. I think anyone who's ever been breathed on by a cat knows you don't get sexy super-powers from it.

Surprise! There's a big whistling error. Early on, the pre-Catwoman Patience Phillips climbs onto a dangerous, fire-escape-free ledge outside her apartment window four or five stories up to rescue a cat. Later, after she gets her powers, she returns to her apartment . . . but it's just two stories up, and there are fire escapes all over the side. You may say I misjudged the building height, and she was around the corner from where she was at the beginning of the movie. To which I respond, ha ha! I just made you think about the plot of Catwoman for five seconds!

I waited for the DVD for this movie. There, I said it. My comic book fan loyalty was tested, and I flunked. I saw Elektra, based on Marvel's likewise sexy assassin who likewise has a heart of gold who likewise has gotten down to likewise freaky business with a likewise masked man. Catwoman is better than Elektra. This is damning it with faint praise, but it's about as much as I can give. Quickly, Catwoman is to Elektra as "somewhat competent" is to "almost completely slap-assed."

The entire plot is about beauty cream. It makes your skin, according to the villainous Sharon Stone, "like living marble." Oh yeah! It's an original plot from a villain! Beauty cream! Why didn't anyone ever think of . . . sigh.

The best part of the movie is Halle Berry. The star could've been Michelle Pfeiffer or Ashley Judd, who both were going to be Catwoman before Berry. This movie has been in the works for over ten years. You'd think they'd have worked out something other than beauty cream, but . . . sigh.

At least Halle Berry didn't have to wear the Phyllis Diller wig from X-Men. I almost said she "breathes life" into the movie, but the cat already did that. She's the only colorful character in the thing, which makes it weird to see her in costume in the same shot as a pants-suited Sharon Stone. My point is, she seems to get it. She just bounces around and purrs in her ugly-ass cat helmet, getting it.

This movie had every right to be a train-wreck. But Catwoman is not the type of bad that, sight unseen, you probably think it is. It's got somewhat intentional camp that stops me from being truly irritated at it. And that, I suppose, will have to do.

DVDetails

The history of Catwoman on the DVD really does cover the entire history, says I, comic book dork. From her 1930s first appearance through lots of ugly costumes. And there's Adam West, who explains the appeal of Catwoman thusly: "I never wanted to date The Joker." That Adam West is a bad mother.

The documentary also includes comments from Michelle Pfeiffer and Tim Burton, but it's very obviously old footage shot in 1992 for Batman Returns. They both look very young. And there are Alice in Chains posters hanging on their wall.

The documentary features EVERYONE who has played Catwoman. The Catwomen from the 1960s show and movie talk about the Catwoman character. Eartha Kitt herself narrates, over-acting just well enough for me to wonder why they didn't find something in the movie for her to do. Julie Newmar and Lee Meriwether are there, and Meriwether outs herself as a comic book geek.

Then, surprisingly, they talk to Adrienne Barbeau, voice actress for Catwoman on Batman: The Animated Series. Is this the first time Hollywood has placed animation actors on the same level as real-life actors? Then Adrienne blurts out that she never liked comic books and ruins the moment. Still, apart from the movie's leaping scenes of Catwoman and the bouncy aftershocks of her body parts thereupon, the documentary is more enjoyable than the movie itself.

When Joe (one-named news editor) makes a whip-cracking sound effect, he says "Wh-CHAH!" Not "Wh-PAH!" That's just not right.

 
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