After being resurrected by an ancient Egyptian cat, cosmetics industry designer Patience Phillips (Berry) turns from shy, badly-dressed punchbag into the vengeful, powerful Catwoman. Employing her feline powers, Phillips seeks rough justice for those who killed her...
This isn't the slinky anti-heroine of the Batman comic books or Tim Burton movie. It isn't even a tongue-in-cheek tribute to any of the Catwomen (Julie Newmar, Eartha Kitt) from the campy '60s TV show. In the hands of Halle Berry and French visual effects whizz-turned-director Pitof, Catwoman is a new breed of feline. And not an attractive one.
Starting from scratch, with no connection to the previous incarnations, this Catwoman has more in common - storywise, at least - with undead avenger The Crow. Halle Berry does all she can to sex up the stale proceedings once she's transformed from frowzy wallflower into lithe whip-cracker. Sadly, despite her still undeniable screen presence and poised intensity, Berry fails to break out of the formulaic Hollywood summer movie routine. Patience tests out her new abilities (she has keen senses! She's supernaturally agile! She drinks milk! She hisses at dogs!) and squeezes into a ludicrous costume to, sort of, fight crime, before embarking on a mewling rampage of revenge. Fetish-freak-reject wardrobe aside, the biggest problem here is the logic-starved plot, revolving around a cosmetics conspiracy in which Lambert Wilson and his scheming spouse, Sharon Stone, invent a face cream which dissolves your skin if you stop using it.
It doesn't really matter that Catwoman '04 is so distant from a character who's been around for six-odd decades - in fact, a new, inventive take would have been welcome - but this wannabe blockbuster is far from original. We don't get a narrative line here, only excuses for shoddily executed action scenes (the bad CG renders the pouncing Berry weightless and unconvincing), a forced romantic subplot (why Benjamin Bratt's do-gooder cop falls for Patience is anyone's guess) and a laughable, OTT climax. Here, Berry catfights bitchy make-up doyenne Stone, now a superpowered chick herself with hard-as-steel skin. And why does she have hard-as-steel skin? Because she slaps on pumped-up face cream. Oh yes, it really is that silly.
Like Van Helsing with a smaller budget, this is only worth seeing if you can handle shallow characters and dull, plastic action scenes for the sake of unintentional laughs.