Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Batman and Harley Quinn

Directed by Sam Liu.
2017. Rated PG-13, 74 minutes.
Kevin Conroy
Melissa Rauch
Loren Lester
Paget Brewster
Kevin Michael Richardson
John DiMaggio
Eric Bauza
Bruce Timm
Robin Atkins Downes

Whether or not you like DC’s bad guys as heroes flick, Suicide Squad, most of us agree Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn is a high point. A short while earlier, Harley was the best part of Assault on Arkham, the animated, and better, version of Suicide Squad. Even before that, the character was a fan favorite on Batman: The Animated Series, the show for which she was created. With all that going for her, I suppose it was inevitable she would be prominently featured in a DC Animated movie right alongside The Dark Knight, himself.

Our tale kicks off without our co-headliner, though. We see Poison Ivy (Brewster) and Jason Woodrue, AKA Floronic Man (Richardson) performing some sort of heist. They get what they need and disappear. While Batman (Conroy) is doing some other investigating, he tells Nightwing (Lester) that the best way to find Poison Ivy was to first find and recruit her best friend, none other than Harley Quinn (Rauch). Small problem: Quinn hasn’t been heard from since her release from Arkham. After turning over lots of rocks, Nightwing finds her. Meanwhile, Batman surmises that Poison Ivy and Floronic Man are planning to save the Earth by turning everyone in the world into plant-like beings. Knowing Ivy is close friends with Harley, Batman and Nightwing strike an uneasy deal with Quinn to help them find and stop Ivy.

Having Harley injects some welcome humor into Batman’s animated universe. The key to it working is that while she is totally bonkers, Batman is as deadpan serious as ever, and Nightwing is stuck in the middle, often trying to appease both. This dynamic keeps the tone from bouncing around uncontrollably. It does fluctuate, but it is well within the scope of reason. Harley’s antics are something Batman must deal with as a parent does a child. It’s slightly different for Nightwing. He’s more or less trying to reign in an unwieldy girlfriend. Add in some dry one-liners by Batman, and this verges on being a straight-up comedy. Thankfully, most of the jokes land. Between them, there is lots of well-rendered and bone-crunching action.

Helping those jokes land, we get the typical strong voice work the animated Batman features are known for. Melissa Rauch does what she’s supposed to do as Harley Quinn and dominates the film. She, along with the writing, captures the unhinged nature of the character. This even bleeds into the animation. The style isn't quite as blocky as the classic style the series is known for. Character designs, in particular, are more rounded, less rigid. Another standout is John DiMaggio in a brief appearance as Swamp Thing. Of course, Kevin Conroy is awesome as The Caped Crusader, so that’s all I need to say about that.

While the writing is excellent in regards to the film’s characters, it struggles in the story department. Like just about every story featuring Poison Ivy as the main villain, the movie leans hard on the environmentalist angle. This is fine, except for the fact the writers struggle to find a way out of its story without making her downright evil for wanting to save the planet. As a result, we get not one, but two anticlimactic endings during the film’s closing moments. After jaunting along merrily for a bit over an hour, we limp through the last ten or fifteen minutes while the plot tries to decipher itself.

As with a number of these animated Batman flicks, this is not necessarily one for the kiddies. I’ve said it so much I feel like a broken record, but I feel I must. I always think people see the pic at the top of the page is of a cartoon Batman and think this is something to show the little ones. It’s PG-13, with some smattering of dirty words and some close-up shots of Harley’s bottom in only a pair of panties. Though there isn’t an actual sex scene, it’s made clear that two of the characters do sleep together. If you’re a parent, use your best judgement. My warnings to mommies and daddies aside, Batman and Harley Quinn is a solid entry into the Bat-canon, but not a great one. It’s carried much more by Harley and all the nuttiness surrounding her than by Batman. This makes it one of the funniest entries. Unfortunately, the narrative falls apart late keeping it from reaching the heights to which it aspires.

Possible 2017 Dellies Considerations: Best Voice-Over Performance (Kevin Conroy, Melissa Rauch), Best Fight Scene (Harley vs. Nightwing)


  1. I did read about some of the humour and was quite scared of watching this because it does sound juvenile without finesse of TBAS but this review is encouraging. And I do love Melissa on The Big Bang Theory so I'm curious to hear how she did here

    1. It's better than most are saying, but let's be clear. It's not anywhere near as good as Batman: TAS.