Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Batman & Harley Quinn

Batman & Harley Quinn is Batman: The Animated Series Lite. Co-written by Jim Krieg and Bruce Timm, featuring Kevin Conroy as Batman, and set in the later style of BtAS, the straight-to-video feature has some of the feel of lesser episodes of the animated series. Sadly, it also has some stunningly bad dialogue, odd tangents (super-hero-themed restaurants and bars for henchmen) which are only loosely connected to the plot, juvenile fart jokes for the kiddies, and an over-sexualized nature that's certainly not directed at the same audience. In other words, it's something of a mess - although starting out be recasting one of the most iconic roles from the TV-series was a good hint that something would be amiss.

In our tale, Batman (Conroy) and Nightwing (Loren Lester) enlist the help of a reformed Harley Quinn (Melissa Rauch) to stop her gal-pal Poison Ivy (Paget Brewster) and her new partner the Floronic Man (Kevin Michael Richardson) from unleashing a virus to turn all animal life on the planet into plants.

The plot is convoluted by the abduction of a scientist, Harley seducing Nightwing, the involvement of A.R.G.U.S., Batman having to be continually talked-in to letting Harley help (despite it being his idea to bring her along initially), an extended song-and-dance number, and the eventual appearance of Swamp Thing (John DiMaggio), all of which is completely superfluous to the plot.

Going in, I was most afraid of Harley's recasting. Rauch turns out to be a passable Harley, although her flatter delivery doesn't have the same spirit Arleen Sorkin brought to the role. Instead it's the script which turns out to be the movie's downfall. Also, the choice to set the film in the darker tones of the series' later episodes also gives muddied look to the presentation. As for Harley seducing Nightwing... while I understand the idea of the scene it simply doesn't work (there was never any sexual attraction to the characters on the show), and other than offering an uncomfortable moment between the Dynamic Duo there's absolutely no payoff for the bizarre choice.

Released on Blu-ray and DVD, extras include a featurette on the upcoming Batman: Gotham by Gaslight, BtAS episodes "Harley and Ivy" and "Harley's Holiday," and a pair of short featurettes on Lester and the character of Harley Quinn.

[Warner Bros. Animation, $24.98 / DVD $14.99]

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