Generally regarded as one of 2004's biggest cinematic disasters, "Catwoman" is actually pleasant in the fact that it's a bad movie that's unintentionally funny, which is more than I can say for the legion of bad movies that I sat through last year. There were certainly some negative signs before the film's release, such as a planned large-format IMAX release that never happened (yet, there are posters available online for the release, boasting the tagline, "CATch Her in IMAX".)
The film stars Halle Berry (previous possibilities included Ashley Judd) as Patience Phillips, a mousey worker at a cosmetics company who dreams of one day becoming a respected artist. When she accidentally walks in on the head of the company (Lambert Wilson, going from the bad guy in the "Matrix" movies to this) and his wife (Sharon Stone, going over-the-top) talking about the nasty side effects of what will be a top product, she's promptly killed by being flushed out of one of the drains. CGI cats, apparently including one she'd saved earlier in the day, circle her and bring her back to life, complete with the abilities and agility of a cat.
Although unsure of her dual personalities at first - shy Patience/outgoing, sassy Catwoman - there's little time before Catwoman goes out into the night, stopping criminals and eventually going after her former employer (although one of the film's oddest aspects is that Patience knows everything about herself aside from who tried to kill her.) Both personalities are persued by a bland detective (Benjamin Bratt) who seems as if he couldn't find a clue if it walked up and hit him. Their romance includes a basketball game that is A: the worst bit of filler I've ever seen and B: the most poorly shot, over-edited piece of faux music video-ness I've ever witnessed. Thierry Arbogast, a brilliant cinematographer who has worked for Luc Besson and others, seems to have his work here lost amidst the visual effects and ridiculous editing.
Speaking of the visual effects, they're not exactly first-rate, given the $100m budget. Some of the bits work adequately - a CGI Berry flipping around - but other things (especially the cats) look downright cartoonish. Surprising, given that director Pitof (that's the only name he goes by) worked primarily in visual effects prior to this effort. The rapid-fire editing, pounding R & B on the soundtrack and blah visual effects can combine to make "Catwoman" a pretty headache-inducing experience at times.
There's other elements working against the film, too. The script, written by a committee of no less than 6 folks, gives Berry some utterly silly one-liners (Stone to Berry: "Game over." Berry's response: "Guess what? It's overtime.") Combine those with an unecessarily serious performance from the Oscar winner and that's a good recipe for laughs, folks. Berry and Bratt have no chemistry with one another, either. The other performances are nothing great: Alex Borstein did wonderfully on "Mad TV" and did superbly providing the voice of Lois on "Family Guy", but she deserves better than this sort of sassy sidekick role. Stone and Wilson are ridiculous as the villians, and Stone's absurd fight with Berry at the end could have been much more fun.
"Catwoman" provides some unintentional laughs and admittedly, I didn't think it was as awful as the hype made me expect (make no mistake, however, this is not a good movie.) What disappoints is that there could have been a solid franchise here had some time been taken with the script and a director brought on who could have provided some genuine atmosphere, not a chopped-up blend of empty flash.
VIDEO: "Catwoman" is presented by Warner Brothers in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen (a pan & scan version is also available). The picture quality is another winner from Warner Brothers, who has delivered a consistent line of fine efforts for their recent theatrical releases. Sharpness and detail are generally very good, as the picture appeared crisp and well-defined, often showing pleasing small object detail. A couple of scenes here-and-there looked a bit soft, but definition was mostly solid.
There really wasn't any major concerns with the transfer, aside from some minor edge enhancement at times. The print seemed to be in top form, and no pixelation or other faults were spotted. The film's bright color palette looked fine throughout, with solid saturation and no smearing.
SOUND: "Catwoman" is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. The film's R & B soundtrack is the main focus, for the most part. The songs sound dynamic and bassy, and get reinforcement from the rear speakers. Some moderately enjoyable effects also came from the rears at times, but sound effects in general were not as spread out around the room as they could have been. Audio quality was fine; dialogue and effects seemed well-recorded, although the level of bass is a bit overwhelming.
EXTRAS: A nearly 30-minute look at the history of the "Catwoman" character, a 13-minute "making of" documentary for "Catwoman", nearly 7-minutes of deleted scenes (including an alternate ending) and the film's trailer.
Final Thoughts: "Catwoman" is silly and over-the-top in its badness, which makes for at least some unintentional laughs. A better script and a director who would have tried for some dark atmosphere and maybe a noir feel instead of making the film feel like it was edited in a blender really could have made this into something worthwhile. Warner Brothers has provided a fine DVD, with good audio/video quality and a few supplements. Those interested in seeing what all the negative hype was about may want to try a rental, but everyone else should steer clear.