Hi, everyone. "Moriarty" here with some Rumblings From The Lab...
Oooooh, I bet he loved it, don’t you?
The Burbank Bandits Strike Back:
After receiving boot-to-ass from the focus group at Disney some weeks ago after the showing of KING ARTHUR, we thought we’d try our luck again over at Warner Bros. for a "Special Screening" of an unnamed, soon-to-be-released High-Profile summer movie. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that the only flick left in Warners’ arsenal that would fit the profile was the one...the only...
Oh, God. Oh, God yes. We saw it. After six grueling, cock-teasing weeks of trailers, laughable TV spots and ridiculous one-sheets, The Burbank Bandits witnessed first-hand the train wreck that inevitably happens when you give a one-named, metrosexual Frenchman a $100 million and a script not worthy of lining a litter box.
Fine, so we suffered a little. Big deal. At least we’d have our say at the focus group THIS time. No way our intelligence would be a hindrance...mainly ‘cause we had pacted to play dumb with our responses to questions. So we filled out our review cards and headed to the front of the theater.
"What’d you give the film in the first box?," one of the moderators asked us.
"Poor," we both replied.
"Yeah, gee," he said, "but it turns out we already have all the people we need. Thanks anyway." The don’t-let-the-door-hit-your-ass-on-the-way-out was implied in his surley tone.
How curious, though, that all the people selected to stay gave the movie EXCELLENTs and VERY GOODs, which we overheard as we waited to turn in our score sheets?
But enough of the bitch-fest. Onto brass tacks:
The best way we, the Bandits, can summarize this film is as follows: if you’ve ever fantasized watching Halle Berry hissing (not once, not twice...but THRICE) and rubbing a sack of catnip all over her supple lips and face in ecstasy, then this pic is for you.
If, on the other hand, you’re looking for a companion piece to this year’s other superior super-hero movie, keep looking, Jack.
CATWOMAN is quite literally an episode of "Melrose Place" thrown onto the big screen, injected with comic-book cliches and random, choppily edited action set pieces for good measure.
The "film" (we’ll have to use the term loosely, mind you...) opens with its most interesting part -- the title sequence, a mish-mash of ancient texts and newspaper articles about the history of cats and their implied connection with the after-life and their effect on the populous. We dissolve to oft-seen trailer image of Patience Prince’s (Berry) lifeless body floating past the camera, angelically backlit through the water. Over this is quite possibly one of the worst voice-overs in the history of cinema, not only in content but execution. For shame, Halle....
Cut to some time ago as we’re brought up to speed on the sad, pathetic life of Patience, a wannabe artist employed as a graphic designer at a large cosmetic company created and owned by Georges Hedare (Lambert Wilson) and his wife / spokes model Laurel (Sharon Stone, who’s given more soft lighting than Marlene Deitrich had in her entire career).
Patience as a character is a carbon copy of Selena Kyle: timid, insecure, a push-over with no self-esteem, etc. Unfortunately, this is where the ties with the source comic book character end.
Having lost an hour and forty-five minutes to this debacle, we shudder to repeat the experience verbatim, so you’ll excuse us as we merely hit the major points.
Patience accidentally overhears that Hedare’s newest skin cream ‘Beau-Line’ (yeah, we’re serious there), which is set to be unveiled in a matter of days, causes people’s faces to literally melt-off and rot over time. She’s chased by some baddies, locked in a waste disposal tube and jettisoned into the river.
Miraculously, she ends up on a random piece of concrete in the middle of the water, surrounded by a dozen or so cats. One in particular named Midnight, who had showed up at Patience’s apartment some time earlier and was the direct cause of her and Dectective Tom Loan’s (Benjamin Bratt, probably hoping Dick Wolfe will take him back on LAW & ORDER after this tanks....) oh-so-cute initial meeting, resurrects her.
To find answers to what’s happening to her, she seeks the sage-like advice of a Crazy Cat Lady (Frances Conroy, and unfortunately not the Crazy Cat Lady from THE SIMPSONS, which, at the very least, would have provided some intentional comic relief). Crazy Cat Lady tells her what we as an audience were well aware of twenty minutes before: that she died and was brought back by Midnight. Unbelievably, Patience takes this bizarre scenario at face value and accepts it almost immediately. I guess she just needed to hear any excuse that would explain her taking on feline attributes in the most frustratingly campy of ways; sleeping in the, uh, "rafters" of her apartment, devouring the contents of a large pile of tuna cans, and creeping around on her haunches amongst other things. It’s akin to seeing Peter Parker suck the blood out of his steak and then cocoon it in webbing before he eats it.
What follows is a ham-handed mystery with Catwoman trying to uncover her killers and exposing the dangers of ‘Beau-Line.’ Simultaneously, Patience and Tom begin their courtship. Too bad he’s heading up the lame investigation to capture the prowling feline who’s been fingered in several murders, including the lead scientist who created ‘Beau-Line’ and, later, Georges Hedare.
One of the many low-lights between Berry and Bratt is a blatant rip-off of the Matt Murdock / Elektra Nacchios "flirtation" scene from DAREDEVIL. Substitute a basketball court for the playground and you get the idea.
And unlike Peter Parker, Bruce Wayne, Clark Kent, and other super-hero alter-egos, Patience readily uses her abilities for any purpose she sees fit and not for the general betterment of society. Sure, she kicks the asses of some jewelry store robbers but when you stop and think about it, the reason she was at said jewelry store in the first place was to swipe a necklace she’d seen in the window the day before. Yeah, Catwoman does end up saving the life of some kid on a malfunctioning Ferris wheel, but it seems like a calculated inclusion to give her more credence as an actual "Super Hero" which, really, this character never was. Another "non-hero" moment included retaliation against a neighboring party, its music seeping through the walls and into Patience’s apartment in the wee hours.
Forced comic relief comes in the form of Sally (Alex Borstein), a man-obsessed co-worker who becomes ill after using the ‘Beau-Line’ cream but conveniently recovers with no real side effects in the end.
The denouement of CATWOMAN is a ridiculous "catfight" (Sorry for the obvious pun. Can you blame us, though?) between Berry and Stone. You see, Stone can now hold her own against those cat-like reflexes because her continuous use of ‘Beau-Line’ (we conveniently find out at the last minute) has caused her skin to become "as hard as marble", so hard that she cannot feel a thing. The attempted beat-down features the destined-to-be-classic lines, "For you, Patience, it’s game over," to which Catwoman replies, "It’s over-time!"
Tonal inconsistencies, melodramatic acting, shameless over- the-top production design (i.e., Hedare’s conference room could double as Dr. Evil’s lair for a fourth AUSTIN POWERS if need be) and, as previously mentioned, an abhorrent screenplay, credited to no less than four scribes are as detrimental to overall failure of CATWOMAN as is helmer Pitof’s curious – and cinematically / narratively unnecessary – penchant for CG-heavy establishing tracking shots.
The print screened for us, projected in DLP, looked to be as close to picture lock as could be at this stage. Many CGI shots were still in the unrendered / greenscreen stage, and some shots looked pulled from the Avid, but, generally speaking, picture and sound quality were otherwise top-notch...which makes the test screening all the more curious. What could they really change at this late stage?
So mark your calendars, ladies and gentlemen. July 23rd. The day Hollywood dumps another disappointing summer entry in our laps.
Don’t say we didn’t warn you.
The Burbank Bandits
P.S. We’ll be back early next week with a look at CELLULAR.
No! Lies! Slander! I refuse to believe it! That’s un-possible!!