'Catwoman' is de-clawed by director's style, goofy story

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Special to the Journal-World

Villainous Sharon Stone, left, toys with Halle Berry in the comic book adaptation, "Catwoman."

I'm allergic to cats.

But I'd rather rub my face on a Persian tabby than have to sit through "Catwoman" again.

This latest entry to adapt a comic book character to the big screen functions like the antitheses of "Spider-Man 2." Whereas that movie showed how to bring a fresh, original vision to a superhero tale, "Catwoman" is all visual pizzazz and no substance.

French director Pitof exhibits an approach to filmmaking as one-dimensional and pretentious as his own name. The commercial veteran's frenetic style is never boring, yet even his simplest scenes are shot and edited like a cross between a cologne ad and a Jennifer Lopez video.

But there are SOME positives aspects to "Catwoman."

Take the star's costume, for example.

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Catwoman * 1/2

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Whereas "Spider-Man 2" showed how to bring a fresh, original vision to a superhero tale, "Catwoman" is all visual pizzazz and no substance. Even the simplest scenes of Halle Berry in form-fitting leather are shot like a cross between a cologne ad and a Jennifer Lopez video. The Oscar-winning actress deserves better - like "X-Men 3."

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While Michelle Pfeiffer already perfected the black leather, dominatrix-style cat suit in 1992's "Batman Returns," it was uncomfortable enough during filming for her to claim she would never reprise the role.

Watching Halle Berry prancing in a more skin-baring and less constrictive version of this outfit may seem like it's worth the price of admission -- and on some rudimentary level, it is. But on the whole, the get-up has more personality than the movie's story.

Berry stars as Patience Philips, a shy artist who is working a thankless 9-to-5 in the graphics department of a mammoth cosmetics company. The conglomerate is run by George Hedare (Lambert Wilson) and his supermodel wife Laurel (Sharon Stone), who has just been replaced as the face of the company's ad campaign by a younger woman.

When Patience stumbles onto evidence that the corporation's soon-to-be-launched anti-aging cream has some horrific side effects, she is targeted by Hedare's goon squad.

Left for dead, she is resurrected by ancient forces that give her cat-like senses and agility. This results in a somewhat split personality for Patience, who is now diagnosed as "docile yet aggressive; nurturing yet ferocious."

Armed with claws and a whip, the feline fatale embarks on a mission of revenge against the heartless Hedares.

It's tough to respect some of Berry's cinematic choices since deservedly winning a 2001 Oscar for the drama "Monster's Ball." Her contributions to the entertaining James Bond flick "Die Another Day" and the cool superhero epic "X2: X-Men United" were appreciated. But then came the dismal thriller "Gothika."

Now this latest atrocity will undoubtedly be remembered in December during the Worst Film of the Year lists.

Perhaps its fundamental flaw is that "Catwoman" has absolutely the lamest origin story ever.

The best the four credited writers could come up with involves Patience drowning and washing up on a garbage-cluttered riverbank. Here, a roving gang of cats, led by one who is infused with the power of the ancient Egyptian goddess Bast, sit on her chest and breathe new life into her.

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Special to the Journal-World

Halle Berry as Catwoman

Then she eventually meets up with a creepy cat lady -- is there any other kind? -- who explains that she is one of dozens of catwomen throughout history to possess this gift.

Good thing a skunk or opossum didn't find her first.

Adding to the unintentional camp value is Stone's performance. It's already funny that the 46-year-old actress is shot with more soft focus than Barbara Walters on a "20/20" episode. But the origin of her secret powers rivals Catwoman's on the totem pole of stupidity.

Not to give too much away, but let's just say it's doubtful that the FDA would have approved the Hedare's miracle product, considering what it does to the flesh. They could have made more money selling the cream to the military.

What will baffle audiences is how a project like this got green lit in the first place. I can't imagine people were clamoring to see the not-very-popular Catwoman return to the screen when so many great comic book heroes -- Green Lantern, Silver Surfer, Thor, Wonder Woman, Iron Man -- have yet to hit the multiplex.

Obviously, whichever Warner Bros. executive was responsible for the film is a big fan of cats ... or leather.

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