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Batman and Harley Quinn
Studio: Warner Bros. Animation
Release Date: August 15th, 2017 - Digital; August 29th, 2017 - 4K, Blu-ray, DVD

Synopsis: Poison Ivy and Jason Woodrue (a.k.a. The Floronic Man) embark on an ecological quest to save the planet – and, unfortunately, eliminate most of humankind along the way. To save humanity, Batman and Nightwing are forced to enlist Harley Quinn to catch Poison Ivy, Harley’s BFF and frequent partner-in-crime. But Batman’s patience is put to the test by the unpredictable and untrustworthy Harley during the twists and turns the reluctant companions face during their bumpy road trip. The result is a thrill ride of action, adventure and comedy no Batman fan has seen before.

The latest DC animated film features a stellar voice cast led by Kevin Conroy (Batman: The Animated Series) reprising his role as the Dark Knight, alongside Melissa Rauch (The Big Bang Theory) making her debut as the irrepressible Harley Quinn. Loren Lester, the voice of Robin in Batman: The Animated Series, returns as Nightwing. Paget Brewster (Criminal Minds) and Kevin Michael Richardson (The Cleveland Show) provide the voices of the villainous duo Poison Ivy & Jason Woodrue, respectively.

Sam Liu (Batman: The Killing Joke) directed from an original story by Bruce Timm (Batman: The Dark Knight Returns) with a teleplay written by Timm & Jim Krieg (Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox). Co-Producer is Alan Burnett (The Batman). Executive Producers are Sam Register and Bruce Timm. Benjamin Melniker and Michael Uslan are Executive Producers.

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Batman and Harley Quinn Feature Review
By James Harvey

Batman and Nightwing find themselves forced to team-up with Harley to stop a worldwide catastrophe in Batman and Harley Quinn, the latest DC universe Animated Original Movie and a new adventure from the DC Animated Universe. More light-hearted in tone, and definitely more vulgar, than the standard DC Animated Universe episode or animated movie, it's hard to say if fans will take to this decidedly adult spin on the animated characters we know full well. Is it fun? Batman and Harley Quinn is definitely enjoyable, but the pliability of the viewer when it comes to what they expect from a Batman animated movie will determine whether they will enjoy this done-in-one comic road trip.

Without a doubt, Batman and Harley Quinn will likely be divisive among fans. It's a rather light-hearted affair, lacking the weight of previous Batman: The Animated Series (and even DC Universe Original Movie) titles, but that's not a bad thing. In fact, the movie actually feels like a breath of fresh air at times. While the stakes are huge, not once do things feel overtly grim and dark. Instead, we get a fun waltz through the DC Animated Universe (or a universe nearly identical to it, depending on how much of a stickler you are for continuity) that's more enjoyable than it has any right to be.If you're looking for a heavy story, akin to Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, you won't find that here. Instead, you'll find a somewhat bizarre, albeit still amusing, adult-oriented trip through an animated world we all knew as kids.

Kevin Conroy is back under the cowl as Batman and, to the surprise of no one, he delivers a great performance. In this film, Batman has to stay the course as the Dark Knight Detective while also reacting to the many weird, goofy things happening around him, and Conroy is able to convey that perfectly. He sells every serious threat, every bit of dry humor and every moment of stunned shock. Conroy is definitely able to stretch his legs a little in this role and it shows. Loren Lester also returns to the role of Nightwing for Batman and Harley Quinn and it is fantastic to hear him bring life to that character once again. Lester hasn't missed a beat and, like Conroy, he gets to have likely a little more fun than usual with the role, and he excels at it.

The Big Bang Theory's Melissa Rauch and Criminal Minds' Paget Brewster bring their talents to the roles of Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy, respectively, both turning in great performances. Fans being upset by the recasting of Harley Quinn is understandable, but Rauch really brings the right kind of energy and wit to the role. Her work is even impressive in some of the film's rare emotional scenes, plus she seems to have a great rapport with both Lester and Brewster, which helps sell her relationships with Nightwing and Poison Ivy.

Kevin Michael Richardson delivers, as always, as The Floronic Man and John DiMaggio is great in his small role as Sarge Steel. And, naturally, shout out to Bruce Timm as Booster Gold.

The directing by Sam Liu is solid for the duration, and actually feels reminiscent of the directing style used in The New Batman Adventures and Justice League. Camerawork is steady and consistent, with action scenes easy to read and thrilling. The story by Bruce Timm and Jim Krieg is purposefully slight, allowing for a single story to really stretch out over the run time. However, the story is pretty padded, resulting in a story that takes longer than it should to unfold (more on that later).

It's the great voice acting and return to a beloved, familiar style that actually pushes this film further than if it was made with a different style and voice cast. The familiar sounds and settings does a fair chunk of the film's legwork for it. There's no need to really establish anything save for what the plot needs, as we already know the majority of the characters here, and the expanded look at the world (by introducing some new characters and locations) brings a little something new to a world many of us know by heart. These are the film's strengths, and it's a smart move to use all these familiar trappings to do something a little different, and it succeeds for the most part. But, for all the film's pros, there are a few cons.

The film’s pacing is Batman and Harley Quinn's biggest problem, with more than a few scenes feeling padded or completely unnecessary. As fun as the henchmen bar sequence is – as it is brimming with great easter eggs for Batman fans – it stops the movie dead in its tracks. The entire film just comes to a crashing halt for this 5-10 minute sequence that, while a fun moment for fans, eventually overstays its welcome. The songs on display during this sequence are well done, and admittedly a shade catchy, but take away time that could’ve been used for something else. That said, the gag with Catwoman’s henchmen is one of my favorites in the entire film.

And, as one likely expects, some of the jokes do fall flat. The film has some real groaners, but it also has some really sharp, great jabs and chuckle-worthy gags. Without giving anything away, the extra scene after the credits is a nice slice of dark comedy. The scene may run just a little too long, but that doesn't dull how clever (and, sadly, likely inevitable) the whole situation is. That scene does help soften the movie's abrupt punchline ending. The film is sprinkled with humorous moments and little gags throughout, keeping things fun without going too far into goofy territory. Batman is the perfect straight man for Harley, and Nightwing serves as a solid middleman, so pairing up all three really works. That said, the farting scene in the Batmobile just doesn't work and seems really out of place, even with how comedic the film is trying to be.

Another sore spot for the film is the uneven animation. There are times when it looks very solid and on point - especially during the fight scenes - but other moments the animation comes off as stiff or just weak. The scene in the henchmen bar is one such example. While dancing is always difficult to pull off in animation, especially when the budget is limited, it looked especially weak here. Character designs also seem a shade off. It's clear the The New Batman Adventures character designs were used as a base, and then tweaked for the movie. For the majority of Batman and Harley Quinn, Batman always looks just slightly off, be it the eyes of his cowl or how his face and chin are drawn. That said, Nightwing's updated design is fantastic, and Poison Ivy's design appears to be a softened a little, making a noticeable difference. Again, nit-picking at best.

And, fair warning, there is somewhat of a sex scene in this movie and, yeah, it'll likely be a very controversial moment for many viewers. The film's amount of sexual content, not just the sex scene but also a Hooters-esque superhero themed restaurant,and the frequently coarse language, might be too much for some fans to handle. In fact, the film tries to walk the line between sexualizing Harley Quinn and giving her a somewhat positive storyline - about how she's more than a crazy pair of breasts - but it gets especially muddled when it flashes out some pretty clearly fan service-y moments. It goes without saying, but Batman and Harley Quinn is definitely not appropriate for younger fans, and is strictly for teens and adults.

Even with all its flaws, Batman and Harley Quinn is a fun movie that, for fans, is at least worth a rental. Enjoyment of this movie will likely come down to whether or not the viewer minds a lively, wackier take on the Dark Knight. While the story is slight, the pacing padded and some of the jokes lacking, it still ends up being an enjoyable time, even if it doesn't fully succeed in what it sets out to do. Batman and Harley Quinn won't go down as one of the best Batman movies ever made, but it should scratch the itch for fans looking to revisit some familiar characters. It is definitely reminiscent of the more comedic episodes of The New Batman Adventures, only laced with adult language, crude jokes and sexual content. And, given how dark some of the recent installments of the DC Universe Animated Original Movie line have been, getting something a bit more light and peppy isn't entirely a bad thing. Recommended.

[ Continue on to the Batman and Harley Quinn Blu-ray review ]

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