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IN SHORT: All Flash and boring with a capital Zzzz.
One half of the couple walking behind me on the street beside the theater where we saw Batman and Robin: "If I had the slightest idea that it would be so bad, I never would have brought you along. I'm so sorry." They got in FOR FREE and the movie wasn't even worth their time to sit through...
If you like stories that make no sense, you'll love Batman and Robin.
If you like continuity errors up the wazoo, you'll love Batman and Robin.
If you like looking at oversized, overdesigned movie sets, you'll love Batman and Robin.
If you are a nine year old boy, you'll love Batman and Robin.
I must admit, Joel Schumacher has done it again. Anyone out there who reads these rants with any regularity knows that there hasn't been a Joel Schumacher film I've liked in, well, ever. They all look good on the surface, but editing decisions induce continuity errors. Or production design overwhelms the story the actors try to tell. Or, like Batman and Robin, they'll bore you stupid.
Joel, please, if you want to make Batman camp like the TV show, then do it. You kicked off the festivities with rubber clad butt and crotch shots. You've added whiz-bang sound effects to this film, so you're an optical order away from colorful pop WHAM! and POW! graphics zooming across the screen. If you want to use the supersized props that populated the Batman comics in the 1940s and 50s, fine. They are part of the history. They can be used to great effect. Go ahead and do it. All I ask is that you give us a story that makes sense.
Here's what I saw at the sneak of Batman and Robin that I attended: the jokes written into the script didn't get the laughs, the straight lines did.
The sitch: A "new villain" appears in Gotham City, yet after one fight and one chase the Bat-dudes have a security camera film of the origin of said supervillain in their Bat-cave. No investigation. No detecting. Nothing.
Victor Fries, "Mister Freeze" to you, is Arnold Schwarzenegger in blue pancake makeup and a spacesuit full of blue LED lights. An eminent scientist who was deep frozen to 50 below zero "but survived for some unknown reason," Freeze wants to save his wife. She is suffering from the latter stages of MacGregor's syndrome, and has been frozen until he can find a cure. Here's where Cranky can ignore logic: Freeze froze at fifty below. Mrs. Freeze (Vendela) is "cryogenically frozen" in liquid that hasn't frozen. Frozen/Not Frozen, let's move on.
Meanwhile... In South America, scientist Pamela Isley (Uma Thurman) has been forced to drink, and doused with, various poisons. She has also been crushed under laboratory equipment by her crazy (and horny) colleague Jason Woodrue (John Glover). It seems that Isley has been developing a venom based serum to help plants defend themselves from mammal-kind. Woodrue has been injecting said venom into humans, who all die. Except one. A monosyllabic musclebound super-lackey named Bane.
Meanwhile... Alfred Pennyworth (Michael Gough), the butler, is so close to Death's Door (he, too, has the aforementioned MacGregor's syndrome) that he cannot muster the strength to answer Bruce Wayne's door when his niece arrives unexpectedly at stately Wayne Manor. Barbara (Alicia Silverstone) has been raised all her life in England, and for the past 5 years has been an orphan raised in a private school on money sent from uncle Al. 18 years in the old country and she has not the slightest of English accents. She likes to steal motorcycles and sneak out to race in the middle of the night.
Meanwhile... Isley survives her apparent death, becoming the one-kiss-kills-all Poison Ivy (whose debut in Gotham is scored with a version of the Coaster's, you guessed it, "Poison Ivy." Sheesh). She blows a pheremone dust that, when inhaled, bends men to her will, and turns Robin against Batman. (Batman figures this out quickly. Does he wear nose plugs or carry a Bat-Air filter? Dumb question.)
Woodrue will not become the Floronic Man. Bane will not break Batman's back. The last bit of Frank Miller's "The Dark Knight Returns" will be tapped as the basis for the gangs that soon-to-be-Batgirl Barbara Wilson, not Gordon (as in daughter of Commissioner), hangs with. Then again, those of you who collect comics never expected to find the comic continuity in a movie, did you? Neither did I.
Did I mention that even the buildings in Gotham City now sport nipples, just as the rubber Bat-suits continue to do? Not the female Bat-suits or Poison Ivy's get-up, mind you, 'cuz I guess that would be sexist.
There are lots of new Bat-toys to play with. There's a new Batmobile to trash. The refurbished Batcave is now slick 'n' silver, matching the new costumes for the Bat and the Bird (and God bless old Alfred who, sickly and weak, still manages to mold a rubber Bat-Girl suit for the niece he knows will "figure out" the Bat-Secret. Crafty old dude put the secret on a CD-ROM and told her not to look. Tee Hee.)
George Clooney is the new Batman and he's fine. His performance proves that just about anyone with the right physical build can put on the mask and do the part. Elle Macpherson and Vivica A. Fox as the girlfriends, and Pat Hingle as Commissioner Gordon are dispensible and almost invisible. So is this addition to the Batman universe.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Batman and Robin, he would have paid...
Normally, I'd give it a buck just for the stupendous production design on the sets. But I know that it doesn't really matter what I say. Only you can destroy a franchise so strong that it has survived 60 years, 2 black and white movie serials, a TV show and movie, three "modern" flicks, and this one. As the long slide towards Bat-TV 2 continues, Cranky can only hope for a miraculous recovery with Batman Triumphant, Schumacher's next collaboration with Batman Forever and Batman and Robin scripter Akiva Goldsman, currently in the works.
But he wouldn't count on it.
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