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Last Updated: Friday, 23 July, 2004, 11:43 GMT 12:43 UK
Catwoman fails to purr

By Peter Bowes
In Los Angeles

Catwoman
Catwoman Halle Berry is dressed to impress in comic book adventure

The eagerly awaited blockbuster Catwoman opens across the US on 23 July, but even Oscar-winner and leading lady Halle Berry has not warmed critics to the film.

Catwoman has been described as the ultimate fantasy character - a defender of the underdog, who is not above the law when it comes to her own desires.

She is sleek, mysterious and thanks to a leather-clad, whip-wielding Berry, ultra sexy.

But is the Academy Award winner a match for the legendary Eartha Kitt's performance in the 1960s Batman series, or Michelle Pfeiffer in Batman Returns?

The film is certainly a fresh take on the comic book character, but it stills look set to go down as one of the summer's big screen disappointments.

Released in the US some weeks after the acclaimed Spider-Man 2, Catwoman pales in comparison with that comic book adventure, which broke box office records.

It is difficult to watch Catwoman prowling over city rooftops without thinking Spidey did a similar trick with so much more energy and excitement.

Tyrannical boss

The film's opening sequence consists of montage of old newspaper cuttings and ancients manuscript dedicated to the history of the cat.

They suggest a depth to the film that is never realised in the pedestrian storyline.

Berry plays Patience Philips, a struggling graphics designer who works for the Hedare Beauty cosmetics company.

Sharon Stone in Catwoman
Sharon Stone plays a former model and Catwoman's adversary

Her fate is sealed when she overhears a conversation revealing that the company's new anti-ageing cream is defective, causing disfiguring side effects.

The company's tyrannical boss and his supermodel wife, played by Sharon Stone, decide Patience must be silenced.

It is only after she is murdered that Patience is resurrected with super-strength and feline agility as Catwoman.

She embarks upon a mission to expose the truth about Hedare cosmetics.

Special effects

But Patience takes a painfully long time to accept she is no longer human.

Her inclination to hiss at dogs and devour canned fish, as well as an insatiable urge to bury her face in catnip, eventually convince her that something is going on.

Unfortunately, the feline personality traits emerge in a rather clumsy fashion. You almost expect the character to seek out a litter tray or scratch pole, just to prove a point.

Benjamin Bratt in Catwoman
Former Law & Order star Benjamin Bratt is the film's male lead

On the plus side, the film has impressive special effects and moves along at a reasonable pace. But the story is too predictable and the main characters feel flawed.

Frances Conroy, best known as the eccentric Ruth Fisher in TV's Six Feet Under, plays a reclusive cat lady, Ophelia, who becomes a mentor to Patience.

Flawed

Her main job is to explain what is glaringly obvious - that the young woman has turned into a cat.

Unfortunately, Ophelia appears to have walked straight out of an episode of the funeral parlour drama and seems to be yearning for a decent line or two.

Stone, co-starring opposite another woman for one of the first times in her career, is not icy enough to be a convincing villain.

Indeed, her has-been supermodel character comes off as a rather sad, plaintive figure.

Berry gives it her all, but does not look comfortable in the sexed up role.

The S&M get-up is over the top and her exaggerated feline movements are vaguely comical. It is as if, career-wise, Berry was in search of a spot of light relief

When she attended the movie's world premiere in Los Angeles, Berry appeared to acknowledge that the picture was less than perfect.

"I'll be honest, it's a popcorn-eating visual spectacle movie - brain surgery's not happening," she said.

Catwoman opens in the UK on 13 August.


SEE ALSO:
Actress Berry files for divorce
27 Apr 04 |  Entertainment
Berry splits from husband Benet
02 Oct 03 |  Entertainment
Berry breaks arm on movie set
16 May 03 |  Entertainment
Halle 'heads for Catwoman role'
14 Mar 03 |  Entertainment


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