Halle Berry's new film, "Catwoman," has many problems, not least of which is that Catwoman doesn't appear until about forty-five minutes into the movie. Until then we've been subjected to the dreary story of poor put-upon Patience Phillips (Berry), shy and insecure graphic artist for Hedare cosmetics. George Hedare, the martinet owner (Lambert Wilson with an excruciating, over-the-top speech pattern whose arch enunciation is as painful as fingernails on a blackboard), is married to Laurel (Sharon Stone), who has been the company's face model for many years, and he is about to bring out a new face cream that restores a woman's pre-wrinkled look. He's also replacing Laurel with a younger model. When Patience brings her new artwork to a midnight conference at the factory she overhears some bad news: the new cream actually destroys the face instead of reviving it. She must be killed, as the saying goes in this kind of film.
And she is, but an Egyptian cat restores her to life as, ta-dah, Catwoman. Okay, it's a premise - after all, it comes from the DC comic book - but why wait almost an hour to get there? Meanwhile she's met detective Tom Lone (Benjamin Bratt), who could be the love of her life if only she weren't Catwoman, committed to walking on all fours, balancing on rooftops and leaping great distances between buildings in her effort to learn who killed her and to stop production of the new cream.
This is a film whose writers have thrown away every good opportunity that's been given to them: Halle Berry is not only the most sumptuously beautiful actress in films today, she also has the chops to create real characters; instead she's limited to whining about her insecurities to her friend and office-mate Sally (Alex Borstein). And Sharon Stone, the 'older woman' (at 46 she's actually only nine years older than Berry), underrated and the butt of jokes today but with the talent to pull off an amazing performance as Cindy Liggett in Bruce Beresford's now-forgotten "Last Dance," is a fine foil here.
One-name director Pitof (that's it, folks - French, a career as a special-effects supervisor) overedits mercilessly, cutting back and forth and back and forth and - oh, never mind. Someone should have kept him out of the editing room.
The film is likely to die at the box office because it opened head-to-head with "The Bourne Supremacy," but it might have had a chance if only the writers had given it what it needed: two or three more Catwoman adventures and a few less fumblings around the Hedare office.