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movie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Catwoman

Starring: Halle Berry, Sharon Stone
Director: Pitof
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 104 Minutes
Release Date: July 2004
Genres: Action, Sci-Fi/Fantasy

*Also starring: Benjamin Bratt, Lambert Wilson, Alex Borstein, John Cassini, Frances Conroy, Michael Daingerfield, Aaron Douglas, Frances McDormand, Byron Mann, Michael Massee

Review by Harvey Karten
2½ stars out of 4

Human beings (not just Americans, Mr. President) are masters of this planet, but let's face it. There are things that the so- called lower animals can do that we can't handle at all. We can't sniff out illicit drugs from 100 feet away as a trained dog can; we can't run as fast as a cheetah; we can't even fly on our power like a pigeon or even a flea; nor can we climb trees like a squirrel, go through winter without eating or, in most cases, be as independent of other human beings as can a cat. Imagine as an example that you die and are reincarnated instantly as a feline, and not an ordinary tabby but a proud breed that dates from the ancient Egyptian empire. This is not so unusual; it happens every day that Pitof's "Catwoman" will be playing in theaters around the world. The title character is a timid, constantly apologetic artist aptly named Patience Phillips is killed by security guards at a plant that manufactures a beauty product, is washed away into a river, and is reborn through a kind of osmosis with a kitty into an angry, free, fulfilled feline. No more cages for this shy woman, who like Spider-Man may occasionally have second thoughts about what she is doing but emerges so convinced that she wants to remain Catwoman that you can be sure of a sequel.

The story opens as Patience, who wants to be an artist but instead must make do drawing for an ad agency, is chewed out by her egomaniac boss, George Hedare (Lambert Wilson) who is the CEO of a corporation about to introduce a beauty product. George's workers can't be blamed for hating him, since even his own wife, Laurel Hedare (Sharon Stone), is fed up. With forty years under the belt, she has lost his interest. Hedare is about to introduce a new product not unlike Botox, which not only deletes wrinkles but turns the facial skin it touches to a marmoreal consistency. Trouble is that when you stop using it, you not only go back to your natural, aging self, but you wind up with hideous skin that would be the envy of the Frankenstein monster. The Hedare Corporation does not want anyone to know this.

This is where Catwoman comes in. Having been accidentally privy to the secret, she pursues the people who tried to kill her (oops, make that who succeeded in killing her), and while doing so gets into many a Spiderman-type adventure. She leaps tall buildings with a single bound, has the strength of a leopard and not just an ordinary cat, and loves to smash through glass buildings, in one instance to frustrate a trio of jewelry thieves (while she keeps a prize ring for herself, thus making her partly a bad cat). She is pursued in turn by Detective Tom Lone (Benjamin Bratt), at first for romantic reasons and then as a cop who suspects her of murder.

"Catwoman" has a few corky one-liners, as when she knocks a bad guy to the ground, grabbing her face and stating, "Cat got your tongue?" and she gives a new, literal meaning to a cat fight during the film's climactic showdown. Halle Berry's looking mighty good, and should there be a movie about a 008 she could make a fine Jane Bond. The rapidly-edited fights, which are frequent, look fake which, of course they are, nor should we assume that the Egyptian cat who follows Patience's new career is a real one trained by the Dawn agency. Cats are not like that, and neither is Catwoman, who might want to check into a chat line and hook up with Tobey Maguire. There's just one character who is terminally irritating: the man-hungry friend and co-worker of Patience, Sally (Alex Borstein), who talks about men as though she were a fifteen-year-old, but aside from that some pretty standard computer-generated effects and some unintentional laughs make this popcorn pic somewhat less than the cat's meow–well except for one thing: A principal motif (an excellent parody of Botox, by the way) holds that a corporation whose product will disfigure women once they stop using it. Would the company be afraid of a class-action lawsuit that would easily bankrupt the firm as soon as the gals run out of the product?

Copyright © 2004 Harvey Karten

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