Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders,
directed by Rick Morales
(Warner Bros., 2016)

Holy shattered dreams, Batman!

I requested Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders from Netflix hoping for a fun, nostalgic look at my first Batman -- the campy TV series of the 1960s, which ran constantly in syndication during my childhood.

And, while it was cool to hear the voices of original cast members Adam West, Burt Ward and Julie Newmar in this animated feature, I was otherwise unimpressed with the experience. Because, while the source material was the very definition of camp, this cartoon movie takes the concept too far.

It's not a parody, nor is it a homage -- it's just silly.

The plot pits Batman and Robin (West and Ward) against their most classic TV villains: Catwoman (Newmar), Joker (Jeff Bergman), Riddler (Wally Wingert) and Penguin (William Salyers). The loyal butler Alfred Pennyworth (Steven Weber) and annoying Aunt Harriet (Lynne Marie Stewart) roam stately Wayne Manor, and police headquarters is manned, as always, by the comically inept Commissioner Gordon (Jim Ward) and Chief O'Hara (Thomas Lennon).

Other TV villains -- including Mr. Freeze, King Tut, Shame and Ma Parker -- appear in a prison break-out scene and one POW-ridden fight scene. And yes, all the fight scenes are heavily sprinkled with onomatopoeic splash screens to simulate violence.

There are some fun elements poking fun at the various incarnations of Batman over the years. In one scene, Batman takes a blow to the head and suddenly sees three Catwomen -- besides the Newmar original, he also sees the versions played by Lee Meriwether and Eartha Kitt. Batman uses lines from the original Batman movie starring Michael Keaton and the seminal comic by Frank Miller, The Dark Knight Returns. There's also a sly nod to the dissatisfying ending of The Dark Knight Rises, the third and final Batman film starring Christian Bale.

But the movie didn't make me laugh (except for one scene, where Batman insists that Robin use a crosswalk, which did earn a chuckle). It didn't make me want to watch an old episode of Batman from the '60s. It mostly made me check the clock to see how much longer it was going to go on.

Yeah, I was bored. Since the TV series already was a parody of the comics, it doesn't make much sense to make a parody of the parody. I much rather would have seen them simply try to recapture the original tone of the show, which was funny without going to such eye-rolling extremes.

Apparently they're making another one. I can wait.

review by
Tom Knapp

7 January 2017

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