A Match Made in Arkham - Batman and Harley Quinn (REVIEW)
written by Justin Prince (@prince_justin)
When it comes to Batman in TV and movies, Bruce Timm and Paul Dini’s Batman The Animated Series is a seminal work lauded as one of the most true to the source material pieces of Batman media across all forms outside the comics, going so far as to even influencing the comics. One such example is the character of Harley Quinn, originally written as a one-off gag character, the Joker’s face painted girlfriend would make the jump from TV to the comics in a big way; evident in the release of this animated film, Batman and Harley Quinn.
First off, I need to point out that this ain’t your daddy’s BTAS… while the art style may be the same, the story and overall content feels like it sits in its own world... despite sharing much of the animated series’ aesthetic.
When Poison Ivy and the Floronic Man hatch a scheme to “save” the Earth by transforming the world’s populace into plant-people hybrids, Batman and Nightwing are forced to form an uneasy alliance with Poison Ivy’s BFF Harley Quinn to track the kissing booth super villainess down. This simple task is proven more difficult since Harley has presumably gone straight, giving up a life of crime (and seemingly finally getting out of her abusive relationship) for a more straight laced life.
Returning to the role of Batman is the incomparable Kevin Conroy (my personal favorite Batman) with Loren Lester returning to Nightwing (fun fact: Loren Lester also voiced the original Robin before transitioning to Nightwing). Some newcomers join the ranks with Melissa Rauch (Bernadette from The Big Bang Theory) taking on the role of Harley Quinn, Paget Brewster as Poison Ivy, and Kevin Michael Richardson as the Floronic Man. As a die hard fan of BTAS, I always love it when Kevin Conroy voices Batman… throwing in Loren Lester was even better! It was like I was watching a more adult oriented Batman The Animated Series. Originally I was a bit put off that Melissa Rauch was cast to voice Harley, while I get that Arleen Sorkin has retired from the role I’ve grown to love it when Tara Strong voices Harley. Tara does a fitting homage to Sorkin’s portrayal I was originally hesitant to give Rauch a fair shot. Honestly I found myself really loving how Melissa Rauch read the role, she brought a fresh take on Harley Quinn that retained her signature intonation and candor while making it all her own.
Batman and Harley Quinn never takes itself too seriously, it felt more like a comedy of errors than a gritty take on this super-team-up. Harley’s personality clashes so extremely next to Batman’s stoic nature that the two forced to share a scene make for a classic odd couple type of comedy. Nightwing feels like the big equalizer here, while he can go the doom and brood route at times, his sarcastic nature meshes better with Harley.
A few scenes did stick out… some for how well they nodded to the original series while others left me with a sour taste in my mouth. Before I get to my criticism, I wanted to focus on what I felt was hands down my favorite scene in the whole movie. During the quest to chase down any leads on Ivy, Harley takes the Bat Boys to a dive bar where super-villain henchmen like to hang out. When the scene opens, fans of Batman The Animated Series will instantly recognize some of these henchmen, notable were the twins Max and Min who worked for Two-Face. In this world, not only are the brothers accomplished at henching (is henching a word?) but also talented singers, with the duo performing on stage before a scene where Harley is forced to sing her little heart out as well. When this scene (predictably) culminates in a bar brawl with Batman and these notable henchmen, the whole thing goes full camp… complete with Adam West era POW/BAMS.
One other moment that had me in stitches was a scene where Batman was on comm with Booster Gold and the Watchtower to ask for any help, with the big guns off doing something else Booster rattles off a list of lesser known heroes while Nightwing silently pantomimes various hand-signals expressing his rejection… finally when poor Booster offers his help, in part to being bored on Watchtower duty, Nightwing starts crumpling a piece of paper while Batman lies about static on his end.
There wasn’t too much that left me bugged by the movie, I get that it was going for a pseudo camp vibe while setting itself in a version of the BTAS world, but a weirdly placed fart joke left me wondering to myself “what the hell movie?” At the film’s final battle, it does throw down some decent action, but the resolution felt lacking… rather than actually giving us a definite end it finishes up with a dreaded cut to black… proceeded with a joke.
Overall, it was an enjoyable movie and as a fan of BTAS I appreciated the slight nods to that universe. While DC’s animated pictures sit in their own world I hope that they continue with this pseudo-BTAS universe… giving us more stories featuring the iconic Bruce Timm design.
A fun and campy movie that never takes itself too seriously