On the surface, Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders offers up camp and cheese for miles, just as one might expect it to. It’s a nostalgic romp that pulls out all the stops to look and feel like the classic ’66 series.
But look a little closer and you’ll find the creators of this homage having a little sly fun with the material, too.
Does it all work? No, and even at 78 minutes it feels too long. Even the cleverest spin on material that was already knowingly silly can wear thin if dragged on ad nauseum.
But there is enough groovy fun to make it worth watching, especially for Adam West fans.
What’s it about?
Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders starts with the Dynamic Duo’s deadliest foes — Joker, Riddler, Penguin, and Catwoman — teaming up once again to terrorize Gotham. They take over a TV variety show in order to draw out our heroes, then lure them into yet another deathtrap sure to cook their costumed gooses.
You know what happens next. “To the Batmobile!” says Bruce Wayne, and they’re off in that forever-cool supercar, ready to put the bad guys behind bars once again.
But the trap and its aftermath are just the beginning of the caper. Catwoman has her own plans for Batman, while her villainous cohorts aim to steal a weapon of unbelievable power to help them each rule Gotham City. And in the midst of all that, a new enemy emerges, one our heroes never imagined having to face.
What follows tests not only their mettle, but also their very partnership. Could it really be the end for Batman and Robin? Tune in next week! Same Bat-time, same Bat-channel!
(Sorry. Couldn’t resist.)
Bam! Whiff! Pow!
The way-over-the-top charm of Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders starts with the script. Writers Michael Jelenic and James Tucker, each veteran contributors to Warner Bros. Home Entertainment’s line of DC Original Animated movies, pour their obvious love of the original material into a screenplay full of winks and nods to classic episodes and tropes.
Ridiculously convoluted plot in need of endless exposition? Check. The show’s supporting characters (except Alfred) wholly inept and helpless without our heroes? Check. Batman such a Goody Two-Bat-shoes that his every word feels like an after-school lesson? Check … at least, at first. If you can, watch a few of those old TV episodes before rolling with this new installment to heighten the sense of nostalgia.
But along with all that reverence there’s a little subversive spirit, too. It’s as though the writers asked themselves, “What were the silliest elements of the show?” and then figured out a way to confront them without breaking the fourth wall.
That effort to add a layer of self-parody comes with a cost – the feature’s plot goes way off the rails about midway and never really recovers. Though there are plenty of chuckle-worthy moments along the way, by the end you may wonder if all that hard work at cleverness was worth it.
West, Ward still got it
Regardless, Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders does provide the opportunity to enjoy Adam West and Burt Ward in their most famous roles one last time.
Remarkably, they manage to sound like very little time has passed, especially Ward. West’s voice sounds a little thinner than it did back in the day, but he still nails Batman’s pedantic cadence perfectly.
Julie Newmar’s turn as Catwoman suffers the most in terms of the transition from live action to animation. Though Newmar brings her classic purr to the feline temptress’s voice, her playful physicality gets lost, and her line reads feel stiff rather than slinky.
Does all that add up to Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders not being worth an hour and 18 minutes of your time? Of course not, especially if you have fond memories of the material that inspired it.
Just keep this in mind: if you’re a believer that a little corniness and cheese goes a long way, best stow that belief before giving this a spin. Instead, just enjoy the groaners, knowing full well they were crafted out of love.
Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders
Starring the voices of Adam West, Burt Ward, and Julie Newmar. Directed by Rick Morales.
Running Time: 78 minutes
Rated PG for action, suggestive material and rude humor.