Not a good time. At all.
Generally speaking I don’t like to write negative reviews; I’d rather just ignore a film/show outright than write some kind of takedown piece given how much rampant negativity there is on the internet anyway.
True enough, Mike and I put a good amount of time into verbally trashing some films in the X-Men and Batman universes over the last year, but those were in service of addressing the whole history of those franchises. But because of how much Batman content there is we always had the luxury of being more selective about what we covered for The Tape Crusaders, even though I generally watch every single animated DC movie. And because I do that, I had the intense displeasure of sitting down with Batman and Harley Quinn recently, so I can say with some certainty that Mike and I will NOT be discussing it on a podcast.
So why am I even writing this review given all of that? Well, I haven’t written any in a while and there’s not really much on the horizon I’m interested in watching, so needs must, I guess. Alright. Prepare yourself for the world’s most overly-generous reviewer of superhero content actually criticising something.
Batman and Harley Quinn is around 70 minutes long and as the title suggests, concerns itself with an unlikely team-up between The Dark Knight and the enduringly popular anti-heroine in order to prevent Poison Ivy and Floronic Man from turning all life on earth into a plant hybrid. ‘Floronic Man?’ you say. Yes, John Glover’s iconic portrayal of Jason Woodrue in Batman & Robin no longer stands alone as Kevin Michael Richardson takes a stab at the big green plant man. That would be all well and good if the incredibly similar looking and more popular Swamp Thing didn’t also feature in the film to confuse those with enough of a social life to not know who Floronic Man is in the first place.
The key bulletpoint for the film is that it heavily evokes Batman The Animated Series, with plenty of zeppelins shining spotlights down from the red skies of Gotham and almost identical character designs for Batman, Harley, Ivy and Nightwing (minus the awful mullet), but with modern animation techniques applied to their character models. The result of this fusion is the lone strength of the film; It looks gorgeous and scratching that Batman TAS itch was the main reason I bought the film in the first place. Kevin Conroy and Loren Lester are even back to voice the Dynamic Duo, and do so decently.
That’s where my compliments for this project end though. Right from the opening titles Warner make clear their intent to make some goofier Batman stories after the justified backlash against their adaptation of The Killing Joke. Indeed, Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders was intentionally silly as hell. Personally I didn’t enjoy it, but I’m not the biggest fan of Batman ’66, which it does its best to emulate, so those that are more into that might have. I like Batman and Harley Quinn less than both of these movies.
For as incredibly problematic as the Batgirl content was in Killing Joke, the second half of the movie was really solid, with Mark Hamill turning in yet another great performance as Joker. Conversely, I don’t think I enjoyed myself for longer than 30 seconds at a time while watching Batman and Harley Quinn to the point I considered just shutting it off without finishing.
serious annoyed? If this film picked a single tone and stuck with it I could put this down as simply not being for me and shrug like I did with Caped Crusaders. But instead the movie is torn in multiple directions and collapses under that stress. Stylising the visuals to take after Batman TAS is a clear statement of intent to court that audience, who must be in their twenties at the youngest.
But the film also features a tonne of juvenile humour (including sex and fart jokes), which does not jive with a lengthy scene in the middle that features back to back musical numbers, one a kind of campy jazz loungey duet, the other a cover of Blondie’s ‘Hanging On The Telephone’, two very different songs that appeal to different age groups. The entire sequence was reminiscent of the style of Return of the Caped Crusaders, which was courting an older demographic nostalgic for Batman ’66. Heck, parts of this movie seem like they’ve come straight out of Scooby-Doo. WHO IS THIS MOVIE FOR?! It’s jarring as hell.
Harley is voiced by Melissa Rauch aka Bernadette from The Big Bang Theory. Her performance isn’t terrible, making the most of the shoddy writing, but it seems an odd choice to go after Conroy and Lester and then pass over the original Harley, Arleen Sorkin (or the contemporary Tara Strong), in favour of a celebrity stunt casting. Paget Brewster voices Poison Ivy and is the better of the two performers in my opinion, with previous experience with DC animation. Yadda yadda yadda.
I hated this film. I sort of enjoyed the first 20 minutes when it seemed like they were going to do some interesting things with the notion of a retired Harley trying to navigate the world only to be dragged back in because Batman is an ass. I hated the middle and it’s 10 minute bar scene with a burning passion. The ending was just plain uninteresting.
And oh my god the final shot!
Right. So. They’ve tried everything they can think of to defeat Floronic Man, when Harley suggests they just set fire to him with a match. Having given her a hard time throughout the film, Batman relents and he and Nightwing give her simultaneous kisses on the cheek. She blushes. End credits. Then there’s a not at all funny post-credits scene where Harley hosts an American Ninja Warrior/Total Wipeout style gameshow. Seriously.
Avoid. This. Film.