- compiled by Jeffrey Overstreet Copyright Christianity Today International
- 2004 23 Jul
"It's the pick of the litter box," for starters. Or, "This kitty's just roadkill that's been left to bake in the sun too long." Too grisly? How about, "The summer's biggest hairball!" No, that was probably used in a review of
Or, you could get personal: You could question why an Oscar-winning actress like Halle Berry would choose for her next big performance a role that reinforces damaging female stereotypes for sex-obsessed male viewers. Or you could just ask her why she'd take part in a movie with such a a worthless script.
The answer to those two questions is pretty obvious: more fame and more money. In
Someone should tell Berry about those actors who have more dignity and who aim for something higher than mere "survival," who show discernment in the parts they choose. Not every actress is so willing to compromise. Berry may be the first African-American actress to win an Oscar, but she's got a fair distance to climb to match the integrity and skill manifested by some of her peers. Alfre Woodard (
But enough about Berry—it is the critic's primary task to assess the film, not the career of its star. And there's not much to say about
A quick history: On the
Now we have Halle Berry's version of Catwoman, a similarly reckless vigilante who has a similarly secretarial start. She's not Selina Kyle, though. Her name is Patience Phillips, and she's a graphic designer for a cosmetics empire. Like Kyle, she's killed by her wicked employers after discovering that a new cosmetic line—
Like Selina Kyle, Phillips lacks moral backbone, but there's a major difference: the filmmakers condone—yea, celebrate—Catwoman's wickedness. There's no Bruce Wayne to appeal to her conscience. In fact, there's no higher moral ground in this film for her to discover at all. She's treated like a role model for all women, exploiting her sex appeal in order to punish the bad men and manipulate those that are stupid but attractive. The film's villains exist only so Catwoman can claw, scratch, kick, and humiliate them while prancing around in the skimpy leather guise of a dominatrix. Pfeiffer's Catwoman dressed in black leather too, but that qualified as a costume; Berry's get-up reveals more than it conceals.
In fact, the whole "fighting crime" element seems secondary in the film, which spends its first half worshiping Berry's bronzed skin, bright eyes, and striking smile, and the second half flaunting her in her soft-core porn costume. It's rather ironic that the film's villains are the royalty of a cosmetics empire. We're supposed to scoff at these merchants of superficiality even as we cheer for a "hero" who's all about gratuitous lipstick and sexploitation.
There aren't even any good action scenes to make things entertaining. Catwoman's CGI-stuntwoman is so obviously the figment of a computer's imagination that the movie often looks like a video game in development. The director, Pitof, was brought in on the merits of his impressively designed French action film
The animation is bad, but the dialogue's even worse. And the "supporting" cast is no support whatsoever. Alex Borstein, who has earned a lot of laughs with her inspired work on
Then there's Benjamin Bratt, as the "love" interest who amounts to little more than an empty-headed Hollywood hunk. Bratt plays Tom Lone, a cop who gets a crush on Phillips when he saves her life. From that moment on, she's in heat and he's too distracted to perform any decent police work. In a scene that tries (too late) to make these characters dramatic and sympathetic, he is forced to interrogate his new girlfriend as a murder suspect, and he looks like he's re-auditioning for his old job on TV's
The villains, George and Laurel Hedare, are a pathetic pair played by Lambert Wilson and Sharon Stone. Wilson, who was so wickedly charming as
There's something wonderfully ironic about casting Sharon Stone in this part. When she starred in
A talented storyteller could have found a good plot here about the difference between style and substance, flesh and spirit. Where Spider-Man demonstrates that "with great power comes great responsibility,"
Berry says the movie is "about being empowered, being O.K. in your skin." Hopefully, we can be "O.K. in our skin" (and our clothing as well) without stooping to such licentious behavior. Explaining her willingness to debase herself in this way, she said, "It's sexy. It's where I've evolved to as a woman." If this is where evolution takes a person, we'd all do well to resist it.
- What distinguishes a strong and intelligent woman from a weak one?
- Why do so many women in the entertainment world exploit their sexuality? What does this lead viewers to think about women?
- How does Catwoman compare to other superheroes in her motives, tactics, personality, and goals?
- Do Patience's choices look like they are leading her to a more fulfilling life?
This film should be off-limits to youngsters due to its relentless violence and in-your-face sexuality. It should also be avoided by mature moviegoers because it will insult their intelligence and throw fuel on the flames of base appetites. Bottom line: This film isn't for anyone.
from Film Forum, 07/29/04
Mainstream and religious press critics are already trying to forget the suffering they endured while watching the new action film from French special-effects wizard Pitof. They're almost unanimous in tossing
Count me among the film's most disgusted critics. I've got a few words of counsel for Halle Berry—look to your admired peers, like Angela Bassett (
For my full Christianity Today Movies chronicle of the film's failings, click here. But I'd advise you to just ignore the film and move on to better things.
Michael Elliott (Movie Parables) says
Adam R. Holz (
David DiCerto (Catholic News Service) goes for the press's most popular feline pun: "Warner Brothers is left coughing up a $100 million hairball. Comic-book purists may find themselves up in arms over the changes to and politicizing of the Catwoman lore. Parents may be equally alarmed by the film's hyper-sexualized reconceptualization of the character. [They] may also find the movie's moral ambiguity problematic, specifically the blurred distinction between right and wrong."
Sheri McMurray (Christian Spotlight) points to the number of screenwriters (six) and says, "Too many cooks do indeed spoil the broth. It is obvious that the storytellers were trying to get all women to rally around the tired idea that for women to have power they must be powerful. That just is not true. Why is it that so many movies these days ask us to be someone we are not? I could not find one character in this movie that would be an acceptable role model, not even our favored feline."
To enjoy a parade of spectacular, pun-filled rants, peruse mainstream critic reviews here.
Gene Edward Veith (