There was once a time where Batman wasn't a brooding grouch--a happier time when the stakes weren't as high and things were a whole lot more...groovy. Back in the 1960s, Batman had a silly TV series with a quirky beatnik flair and more dancing. Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders is DC's newest animated feature and it aims to recapture the kooky charm of the retro series. Lucky for you guys, your righteous ravishing reviewer is here to give you the skinny on whether these guys did a good job or not!
The story follows Batman (Adam West) and Robin (Burt Ward) on their quest to stop Joker (Jeff Bergman), Catwoman (Julie Newmar), Penguin (William Salyers) and Riddler (Wally Wingert) from committing their dastardly shenanigans and crimes. It starts out rather simple and predictable but the narrative takes some clever twists and turns that viewers won't see coming. The writing is absolutely hilarious and it captures the feel of the original show perfectly. Every line of dialog is rife with alliteration, dry jokes and puns--it's basically one giant dad joke for an hour and twenty minutes. While the old series had squeaky clean humor for the most part, Return of the Caped Crusaders has a little bit more edge to it. It's more tongue-in-cheek and aimed at adults who fondly remember the show. That's not to say this isn't child friendly though, and I think most young children would get a kick out of this film.
This movie is an excellent homage to the series without being a complete retread, and it does a great job with incorporating the sillier elements from the show. The fight scenes are still filled with colorful pop art onomatopoeia and there might be a little Batusi involved as well. That and many other references are hidden throughout the film as fun extras for observant Bat-fans. The voice acting for the most part is not bad, though Adam West is sounding just a tiny bit old nowadays. Burt Ward sounds exactly the same as The Boy Wonder and he gives the most spirited performance by far. Julie Newmar sounds a bit monotone, but it is nice to hear her back in the catsuit.
I really dug the aesthetic of the animation they used--it looks like a highly polished Hanna-Barbera production and the third act especially has a neat set-piece. There is a bit of CGI involved but it never seems intrusive and the character designs look spot on.The sound production and score are great as well as they use a lot of retro sound effects and music cues. Most of the score consists of swing style jazz music and snazzy sax solos. Of course, the classic Batman theme makes an appearance and I am proud to say some of the audience members sang along with it while it was playing.
If you are a fan of the 1960s show then you would be batty if you missed this fun adaptation. It's snarky, silly and clever with all your old favorites returning to their classic roles. Make sure you tune into The Movie Sleuth for future reviews! Same Sleuth time and same Sleuth channel!
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- Michelle Kisner