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brendastarreyes

It comes to something when Brooke Shields isn’t the worst actress in a movie. I’m not sure who the worst thespian is in this, but its possible that Shields was outshined by her hat.

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Seriously, bask in this hat.

Seriously, bask in this hat.

I find it telling that the director, Robert Ellis Miller had 49 credits before this movie, but only 5 after. There were also 3 writers (!) for this disaster, but after it was released they only penned one more film cumulatively before they were called before the Hague.

Brenda Starr immediately goes meta with a cartoon character that leaps from the drawn page to ‘real life’ and refuses to go back. This is a problem for her wimpy cartoonist, Mike Randall.

Her male cartoonist.

If you don’t know, Brenda Starr was written and drawn by Dale Messick, who kicked the door down for female cartoonists. Since then, there have been a succession of female creators who worked on Brenda Starr. No men have worked on the strip. The moment Mike appears, you know there’s going to be a crappy love story shoehorned in.They don’t even explain how he gets sucked into the comics, or explore that concept more, which frankly has more potential than the plot they went with – a chase for a Nazi scientist with dangerous technology.

Timothy Dalton. The things that guy did for a buck-

Timothy Dalton. The things that guy did for a buck-

That’s a shame because Brenda Starr was a capable adventure comic about a woman who went around the world, outsmarting international criminals and fighting for the truth. It was romance version of Tintin.

This movie has a shallow and sulky Shield surrounded by buffoons and broad unconvincing characters engaged in slapstick escapades. No one’s heart is in it, and Shields is more of a special effect than an actress. In the end Brenda Starr commits the worst sin a comic book movie can make – its terribly dull.

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More often than not, women get the raw deal when it comes to portrayals in comic book movies. In good films, they are too often treated as set dressing or background characters, no matter how badass the character is in print. And in cases where they are appropriately awesome in the film, execs still don’t think people will line up to watch them in a solo outing.

In bad films, they are too often horribly miscast, unable to pull off what the role requires of them. More emphasis is placed on their looks and sex appeal than their skills or character, and the result is almost always an unwatchable mess.

This is a story about such a mess.

This is a story about such a mess.

Catwoman fails on multiple levels, starting with the fact that the source material was completely abandoned and replaced with an “original” storyline. That storyline involved a completely new character, who, after discovering a conspiracy hatched by a cosmetics company, is killed off and then resurrected by cats, who give her cat powers.

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Against all odds, the story somehow gets worse from there.

Rewatching this film made me feel bad for Halle Berry. First, she was badly miscast as Storm in the X-Men series, unable to pull of the gravitas required to play a character with such amazing power, and treated like a supporting character on a team that she was technically supposed to lead. Then, she gets cast as Catwoman, a role that required her to pull off a transformation from meek pushover to empowered woman – which wouldn’t have been so bad, except that “empowered woman” meant walking around in fetish gear, and – literally- acting like a cat.

Berry gets a lot of flack for her performance in this film, and deservedly so, but not even Meryl Streep could have done better with the schlock she was given to work with here.

The action sequences and CGI look horrendous, and mostly focus on Halle Berry’s rear end in leather pants. She’s got Catwoman’s whip, but she mostly uses it as a prop instead of a primary weapon. And the final fight, where Berry and Sharon Stone (who was simply abysmal as the film’s primary villain) face off, ends like this:

The most distressing thing about Catwoman is the way it tries to convey a message about female empowerment, while simultaneously oversexualizing the main character, and centering the film around a makeup conspiracy. In addition to not having read any comic books, you would think no woman had a hand in this thing at all – but the story was developed in part by a woman, a fact that makes the whole thing even sadder.

One thing always makes me smile about this picture, though: It was the moment when, after winning the Razzie for Worst Actress, Halle Berry owned up to her mistake and did what not even Stallone and Schwarzeneger had the balls to do: She accepted the award in person, and gave an amazing speech to boot:

Now that’s female empowerment right there.

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