A completely original
adventure featuring Batman and Harley Quinn? In the aftermath of Harleen’s
newfound post-Suicide Squad popularity?
With fan favourite Nightwing thrown in for good measure? On paper, Batman and Harley Quinn sounds like a
match made in heaven, so let’s see if it lives up to its fun promise.
Plot-wise, Batman (Kevin Conroy) and Nightwing (Loren
Lister) find themselves tasked with stopping the twisted plan of Poison Ivy
(Paget Brewster) and the Floronic Man (Kevin Michael Richardson). With the future of mankind hanging in the balance, the long-time
Dynamic Duo have no choice but to seek out the help of none other than Harleen
Quinzel, aka the Joker’s main squeeze: Harley Quinn (Melissa Rauch). It’s a
largely paint-by-numbers story, and the main adventure itself is absolutely
fine. It’s elsewhere that many may ultimately take issue with Batman and Harley Quinn, though. And
boy, are there issues here.
First and foremost, when we first meet up with Harley we see
her complaining about being viewed by some lowlife as a sexual object – only to
then spend the entirety of the film being positioned as a sexual object by the
minds behind Batman and Harley Quinn.
From close-ups of her derriere, to her stripping to her underwear, to her
actually shaking her breasts at one point, it’s easy to see why many fans would
be in uproar at how sexualised Quinn has become here. In addition, there’s
actually a scene based around Harley farting up a storm that causes the
Batmobile to pull over, and then the ending will have plenty of viewers
slapping their head in frustration as they mouth obscenities at the screen.
That’s not to say that Batman
and Harley Quinn is a total dud, and the animation style and certain
elements of its tone will conjure up fond memories of the much-loved Batman: The Animated Series – which in
turn is helped by the returns of Conroy and Lister as the Caped
Crusader and Nightwing. And while it may be a little off-putting initially to
not hear the vocals of Arleen Sorkin or even Tara Strong as Harleen, Melissa Rauch
does an impressive job as the Maid of Mischief. Elsewhere, there’s plenty of
nods and winks to keep eagle-eyed DC fans busy, while the music used throughout
the feature manages to hit the right beats brilliantly; with Harleen’s take on
Blondie’s Hanging on the Telephone even
having the Dark Knight himself tapping along.
Overall, Batman and
Harley Quinn is a mixed bag that struggles to know what it wants to be,
with fun, kid-friendly antics and some genuinely funny lines thrown together
with some more suggestive adult content and the at-times horrifically
sexualised take on Harley. Being perfectly honest, the movie is a rare misstep
for Warner Brothers’ animated DC output, and it feels horribly misjudged at
several points. Making this even more annoying is that there was such potential
here, and even now there are elements of the film that are hugely appealing –
the fluid animation style that harks back to Batman: The Animated Series, the excellent musical nods, the many
DC references, Conroy and Lister making the best of what they’re given, and
Rauch proving a strong choice as Harley Quinn – but it comes to down the fact
that, regardless of how much you find yourself enjoying parts of Batman and Harley Quinn, it’s ultimately
too much of a struggle to override the negatives.
By this stage of the game, Warner Bros. and director Sam Liu
have earned our trust when it comes to this animated universe, so here’s hoping
that lessons can be learned from Batman
and Harley Quinn’s failings and this is simply a blip on the radar. And in
case you need a little pick-me-up afterwards, the sneak peek at next year’s Gotham by Gaslight adaptation looks
phenomenal, not to mention there’s two brilliant Harley-centric Batman: The Animated Series episodes
included on this release to raise your spirits.
Sneak peek at Batman: Gotham by Gaslight / Two featurettes / Two bonus episodes
of Batman: The Animated Series / Trailers
BATMAN AND HARLEY
QUINN / CERT: 12 / DIRECTOR: SAM LIU / SCREENPLAY: JAMES KRIEG, BRUCE TIMM /
STARRING: KEVIN CONROY, MELISSA RAUCH, LOREN LESTER, PAGET BREWSTER, KEVIN
MICHAEL RICHARDSON / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW