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  • Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders | Review

    By | October 11, 2016

    caped

    Director: Rick Morales

    Writers: Michael Jelenic, James Tucker

    Starring: Adam West, Burt Ward, Julie Newmar, Jeff Bergman, Sirena Irwin, Thomas Lennon, William Salyers, Lynne Marie Stewart, Jim Ward, Steven Weber, Wally Wingert

    Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders had me at Adam West and Burt Ward. An animated flashback to the campy approach of the much-beloved 1960s Batman TV series, it was produced for Warner Bros.’s DCU Original Animation unit for VOD and home video but it’s also receiving a couple of nights of special showings on the big screen. Clocking in at 78 minutes and featuring the simpler looking hand drawn animation style of earlier Warner-animated superhero features, it’s really the inclusion of Adam West and Burt Ward serving as the voices of the Dynamic Duo (with an added nostalgic bonus being Julie Newmar voicing Catwoman) that makes this the perfect nostalgic Batman throwback film.

    In other words, this is a lark, a self-aware spoof that embraces the painful puns, alliterative exclamations, and deadpan delivery of the old show, right down to the Bat-gimmicks of the utility belt, with a plot that refuses to take itself seriously. Catwoman teams up with Joker, Penguin, and Riddler to bedevil Batman and Robin with riddles, pranks, and robberies and even concocts a serum to turn the hero into their partner in crime. Instead, it turns Bruce Wayne into an intolerant jerk who boots Dick Grayson (by now the world’s teenager) and Alfred the Butler out of Wayne Manor and Batman into a one-man army taking over Gotham with the help of a buggy Replicator Ray. Holy masked Mussolini! Batman is a despot in a cape and cowl, the king of all media, and even his own back-up band and chorus line, and the Robin strikes an unlikely alliance with Catwoman (still smitten with the Bat) to stop the reign to Bat-terror. Her purring flirtatiousness with the Boy Wonder, who insists on driving her Catmobile (he does, after all, have his learner’s permit), is the high point of this exercise in eccentricity.

    It works best as a knowing tribute to a cult show, playing to fans already in on the joke. The supporting voice cast channels the spirits of Cesar Romero, Frank Gorshin, and Burgess Meredith as Joker, Riddler, and Penguin and, in an inspired in-joke, a trio of Catwomen call out Lee Merriweather and Eartha Kitt. The visual sound effects invent a whole new vocabulary beyond Pow! and Boff! and while the animation has a stiffness that, though appropriate to the panel-like posing of the live-action show, tends to stiffness and lacks the pop-art mix of the mundane and the surreal, it also allows the filmmakers to populate the screen with dozens of blank-faced Batmans in a free-for-all with a roll call of classic TV villains (the ultimate call-out of animated cameos) and send the cast into space for an episode. It’s an exercise in juvenilia for grown-ups. Saints preserve us!

    Rating: 8/10

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