The character of Harley Quinn was created by Paul Dini and Bruce Timm back 1992 for Batman: The Animated series and over the years her popularity has grown by leaps and bounds, she’s pretty much the reason the Suicide Squad movie even exists, but now we get her starring in her first PG13 outing within the DC’s Animated Universe, and to say this entry was a bit of disappointment would be a vast understatement.
Note: This movie’s cool stylized credit sequence is much in the vein of the classic Pink Panther movies, I guess they were trying to set the tone for to the wackiness ahead, but what follows is often far from wacky and instead is simply crude and lame.
The film’s plot is about as thin and nonsensical as possible and barely takes up much of it’s 74 minute running time, what Bruce Timm instead decides to focus on are the road trip antics of Harley Quinn (Melissa Rauch) as she is forced to team-up with Batman (Kevin Conroy) and Nightwing (Loren Lester) to save the world. The movie opens with Poison Ivy (Paget Brewster) and the Floronic Man (Kevin Michael Richardson) breaking into Star Labs to steal files pertaining to a formula created by scientist Alec Holland, who comic book fans will recognize as the man who became the elemental known as Swamp Thing, as they hope to use it to turn all of humanity into plant-people. They believe this is the only way to stop mankind from destroying the planet. Batman figures that the best way to find Ivy and stop her diabolical plot is to locate her old BFF Harley Quinn, and so Nightwing is sent out to track down Joker’s old girlfriend. After endlessly canvasing the city by just showing random people a picture of Harley (did he learn nothing about being a detective from Batman?) Nightwing discovers that she is now working at a superhero themed restaurant called Superbabes that has a solid Hooter’s objectification of woman vibe to it.
Nightwing follows/stalks Harley back to her digs and soon finds himself in a knock down drag out fight with a very bitter Harley Quinn, and this led to me asking, “When exactly did Harley Quin become a master of hand-to-hand combat?” Now I don’t have an issue with them turning Harley Quinn into a bit of a badass but to see her actually win a fight with a dude who was trained by friggin Batman is patently ridiculous, and I don’t care that she technically won because she injected him with Joker venom because that fight still lasted way too long for it to be even remotely plausible. Of course that whole sequence was really just a set-up so we could get to a scene with Nightwing being tied to Harley’s bed, apparently she got all hot and bothered by his superhero cuteness and decides to have sex with him, with a little light bondage being a bonus I guess.
Bruce Timm even brings up the actually real book “Seduction of the Innocent” by American psychiatrist Fredric Wertham, which was key in bringing about the comic book censorship/purge in the1950s, as something that Harley had read back in her college days, and because of that she states “I didn’t think you and Batman liked girls” but because she spots Nightwing’s erection she realizes that the author was clearly wrong. It’s at this point one starts to wonder if we are watching a DC produced Batman movie or someone’s fanfiction. Batman eventually shows up, but not before stopping off at Argus where he blackmails one of the agents for information, and then the three of them hit the road to track down Ivy.
Note: Batman actually threatens to out the agent’s sexual fetish if he won’t spill government secrets, thus proving that this particular Batman is a complete asshat.
What follows next is not something one expects to find in a Batman movie, and that would be an extended fart joke. Turns out the food at Superbabes is not the best and Harley really needs to use a restroom, but Batman refuses to pull over so she repeatedly farts in the backseat of the Batmobile. *sigh*
I love Kevin Conroy, and he is still one of the best of all the incarnations of Batman, but he really should have refused to deliver that line. In fact he should have passed on the part entirely because it pretty much pisses on the legacy he helped create during the shows original run. Also this movie should not have been called Batman and Harley Quinn as it’s more about Nightwing and Harley with Batman solely there to play the stick-in-the-mud straight man to those two.
In fact Batman is so bad at his job in this movie it boggles the mind; the World’s Greatest Detective resorts to the aforementioned blackmail to get information he needs to track down the villains but when he eventually does encounter the Floronic Man, a guy made of planet matter and who is an exile from an interdimensional world, he fails to pack anything useful in his utility belt to combat him. Instead in both of his encounters with the Floronic Man it’s mostly Batman trying to punch the super villain in the face. Don’t forget this is a man/creature who is mostly plant matter and who has plant controlling powers, not someone you’d assume was particularly vulnerable to a fist to the face. Did he forgot to pack the Bat-Weed-Be-Gone in his utility belt? Batman deserves to get his ass handed to him here. To add insult to injury there is a throw away gag at the end of the movie that reveals how our heroes eventually defeat the Floronic Man that is such an insult to Batman that Bruce Timm should have been sent to the corner for a time-out.
To make matters even worse Bruce Timm decided to waste much of the film’s short running time with a useless scene where Harley takes Batman and Nightwing to a bar where costumed henchmen hang out with the hope of finding one of Ivy’s old associates. Not only does Batman and Nightwing’s arrival at such an establishment illicit no response, you’d think at least a couple of them would wisely try and slip out the back door, but then we get two full musical numbers for no bloody reason. The scene ends when one of Catwoman’s old crew eventually does pick a fight with Batman and we get a terrible nod to the classic Adam West Batman series.
Batman and Harley Quinn was directed by Sam Liu, whose last two outings were Teen Titans: The Judas Contract and The Killing Joke which were less than memorable, but the fault here I’d say lies squarely on writer Bruce Timm’s shoulders as he took a character he so lovingly brought to life in the original Batman: The Animated series and then turned him into a punching bag for a bunch of lame ass jokes. Then as if dragging the Batman legacy through the gutter wasn’t enough we are subjected to a terrible “surprise” cameo from Swamp Thing that is only there as a pointless and awful throwaway gag.
Finally I will say that though Big Bang Theory actress Melissa Rauch wasn’t terrible as Harley Quinn I see no reason for casting original voice actors Kevin Conroy and Loren Lester and then not casting Arleen Sorkin as Harley, who I’d say is as responsible for the popularity of the character as Bruce Tim and Paul Dini are, but maybe she read the script and turned them down. Even if that’s not the case I will pretend it is. This is not the lovable ditzy character we all know and love, who back in the original cartoon did actually team-up with Batman in an episode called Harlequinade. That episode was brilliant and funny, as most of her appearances in the original show were, but what we got here is a poor excuse for fanfiction that is best forgotten as quickly as possible.
Batman and Harley Quinn (2017)
Batman and Harley Quinn has some nice animated production values to it but the characters or so off model in their actions that I can’t recommend it to fans of the original show.