Me-Ouch!

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When is a cat a dog? When it’s “Catwoman.” Some movies are dead on arrival, and by opening day last weekend it was official: the latest incarnation of Bob Kane’s “Batman” babe was a bad movie. Most critics panned it; their headline writers have had their fun with it: “Far from Purrr-fect,” “Should Be Fixed,” “Spits Out a Hairball.” The film may be the most easily mocked hymn to feline power since “Cats” came to Broadway. And this one won’t run for 21 years.

The movie will also not come close to making back its $100 million production budget and $35 million marketing cost. (It will have grossed less in its first full week than Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 9/11” did in its first weekend.) But even a botched action film can offer lessons to the attentive. Here are four:

Don’t Marvel-ize a D.C. comic star. The idea was to give the heroine flaws more suited to a Marvel-comic sensitive lunk like Spider-man’s Peter Parker or The Hulk’s Bruce Banner. But the gorgeous Berry is implausible in this sort of an under-cat role; it demands too great a suspension of disbelief. What alternate universe does the movie dwell in where Halle Berry can’t get a man until she gets all leathered up?

Rethink Halle Barry’s star quality. Maybe she’s a star who doesn’t need movies. Her iconographic status guarantees that she always comes on strong, as in the James Bond “Die Another Day” and the “X-Men” series But there’s something strange about an actress whose impact is greater with her first impression than her final one. She’s best in passive roles, where the only assaultive aspect is her beauty (“Monster’s Ball”) or her bosom (“Swordfish”). She hasn’t the oomph for the sassier parts of her role here — most of which are CGI’d anyway. It’s hard to think that, in next year’s “Foxy Brown” remake, she’ll be able to invest the emotional heft Pam Grier gave the tatty original three decades ago.

Beware directors with one name. Pitof, a French special-effects wizard who worked on movies by director Jean-Pierre Jeunet (“Alien Resurrection,” “The City of Lost Children”) and Luc Besson (“Messenger”), has a trapezist’s love of swooping camera moves, but he’s lame directing humans. Nor can he make a persuasive connection between the actors and the computer images that eventually infiltrate and take over their characters. (I also wasn’t crazy about the “Charlie’s Angels” films, directed by the monomonickered McG. Though I do love some films, especially “Mother India,” directed by the old-Bollywood legend known as Mehboob. And I am on record as having enjoyed Prince’s 1986 Deco farrago “Under the Cherry Moon.”) This time, the one-namer is likely to leave viewers Pi-tof.

Don’t let your villain have more luster than your heroine. Sharon Stone, who plays an ex-model and eternal bitch named Laurel, may represent an earlier generation of star actress than Berry’s — and some might say actress isn’t quite the word for Stone — but she can hijack a scene from a mere Oscar-winner without so much as uncrossing her legs. (And her stunt double and digital stand-in can kick the putative star’s stunt double’s and CGI animator’s butt.) Stone, 46, looks preternaturally young here, which is the movie’s one good joke: Laurel’s unnaturally gorgeous face is so pumped-up with chemicals, it cracks on contact with the heroine’s fist. But Laurel is the “Catwoman” woman we’d put in a sequel. It could be called “RoBotox.”

But there will be no “Catwoman 2.” Which is a real botch, since the Selina Kyle character has scored so often before — notably when played by Julie Newmar (a dozen episodes of the 1966 “Batman” TV series) and Eartha Kitt (Newmar’s successor in the second year of “Batman”). For a potent, poignant, deliciously wicked Selina, stop reading this website right now and go rent Tim Burton’s 1992 “Batman Returns.” And avoid this cat with no life.