Batman and Robin (1997)

A colorfully clunky costumed romp, BATMAN AND ROBIN is the most 
lighthearted of the Batflicks.  Though not nearly the camp classic 
that director Joel Schumacher (A TIME TO KILL, BATMAN FOREVER) ob- 
viously intended, the movie that Frank Miller fans love to hate 
delivers many a hearty Batlaugh, from the first scene's fetishistic 
close-ups (butt, codpiece, etc.) to Uma Thurman's wonderfully punny 
innuendo.  (Addressing Arnold Schwarzenegger's diamond-stealing Mr. 
Freeze, her Poison Ivy purrs "I'll help you grab your rocks.") Sub- 
tle in ain't, but at least the tone (or lack thereof) is consistent 
from the beginning.  (If, say, Schwarz's chilling puns don't warm 
your blood, you'll know to make tracks.)  And, while said villains 
once again steal the show, we actually get to spend a little quiet 
time around Stately Wayne Manor.  (Subplots include a bratty Boy 
Wonder, an illness for Alfred, and the arrival of Barbara Wilson, 
Mr. Pennyworth's niece, a student at Oxbridge By The Beach.)

Of the primary players, Chris O'Donnell is, again, the most engag- 
ing.  George Clooney certainly *looks* good as Bruce Wayne, but, 
well, he smiles too much.  (Even during death scenes!)  And he keeps 
nodding, for some reason.  (All that rooftop-induced vertigo, I 
guess.)  Alicia Silverstone doesn't add much to the movie as Bat- 
girl, but, hey, she looks good in a costume!  (No nipples on the 
Batboobs, though.  Sigh.)  Uma's Ivy is absolutely fabulous, despite 
a weak origin sequence.  Arnie is also in on the joke, though his 
huge costume seems to stiffen his line-readings.  (He's much more 
fun at home, at his ice lair, wearing his fuzzy polar bear slip- 
pers.)  On the supporting front, both Michael Gough and Pat Hingle 
have returned for a fourth go-around, as Alfred and Commissioner 
"Don't Ask Why I'm Dressed Like Chief O'Hara" Gordon.  Also packaged 
among the action figures:  a wildly coifed John Glover (as Dr. Jason 
Woodrue, evil scientist), a masked and body-painted Jeep Swanson (as 
Bane, bane of all Batfans), and a trio of supermodels, Elle Macpher- 
son, Vivica Fox, and Vendela K. Thommesen, as assorted dolls, molls, 
and frozen wives.

The big surprise-- well, other than the distressing realization that 
yet a *third* actor can wear the rubber suit and not make much of a 
difference-- is the surplus of action, surely a first for the fran- 
chise.  Neither of the title characters does much detective work in 
this movie, but they do have a high time playing hockey and racing 
their vehicles down the arms of giant statues and escaping airborne 
rocket ships without the use of parachutes.  Or oxygen masks.  (And 
you thought the Batmobile driving up the side of a building was a 
stretch!)  Other treats:  O'Donnell and Clooney's casual chemistry, 
a playful assortment of in-jokes and self-references, and the most 
accomplished art direction of the Batseries.  Finally, we experience 
Gotham City from enough angles, heights, and perspectives to appre- 
ciate the visions inspired by Anton Furst (BATMAN) and Bo Welch 
(BATMAN RETURNS), and, now, fully realized by production designer 
Barbara Ling.

Like all the Batfeatures before it, the film's great failing is in 
the editing.  The pacing is horrid.  The action sequences are often 
confusing.  Character introductions are abrupt.  Prickly plot points 
are ignored.  (For the nit-picker, though, it's pure gold.  How did 
they know to bring ice skates?  Where does Batman have his credit 
card bill sent?  Why is a computer-science major reduced to guessing 
passwords, and on a computer that actually displays the characters 
as she types them?  Holy Hollywood!  And what's with the repetitive 
score?)  BATMAN AND ROBIN badly needs another trip (or two) through 
the editing booth.  And, given that Schumacher has reportedly recut
BATMAN FOREVER, for an as-of-yet unreleased DVD release, there may be 
hope for the camped crusaders yet.  There's a decent movie in here, 
arguably the most audience-friendly of the franchise.  It just needs 
a few more passes with the Batscissors.  (Rated "PG-13"/130 min.)

Grade: C+

Copyright 1997 by Michael J. Legeros
Movie Hell is a trademark of Michael J. Legeros

Originally posted to triangle.movies as MOVIE HELL: Pow! Bam! Biff!

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Copyright 2001 by Michael J. Legeros -Movie Hell™ is a trademark of Michael J. Legeros