Well, the highly anticipated Batman and Harley Quinn animated film has finally arrived and, while I shouldn’t be surprised that it’s already stirring up controversy, I am. It seems like nobody can create any sort of art these days without enduring some sort of backlash, but that’s just the world we live in. Before diving into my review, I’ll preface by saying this movie is in no way for kids, but if you’re a prude, you may also want to sit this one out.
I say that because this aesthetic return to The New Batman Adventures feels like an extended episode of that very series, but with much raunchy humor packed in. And as a guy with a raunchy sense of humor of his own who (mostly) keeps it under wraps in his writing, I can say that I appreciated most of it. To be quite honest, you should’ve seen this coming given how Harley-centric the flick is. Yes, the Dark Knight may be the co-headliner, but without him, this may have never received a green light.
As a side note, I’d like to say that if the home video sales for this movie are considerable, WB should seriously ponder a solo animated outing for Harley based on the works of Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner. Taking the character’s immense popularity into account, doing so seems like a no-brainer.
Anyways, as I was saying, this picture ventures back to the Timm-verse of old, so it’s only appropriate that Bruce Timm himself served as co-writer. And with him are fan favorite voice actors Kevin Conroy and Loren Lester, who reprise their roles of Batman and Nightwing, respectively. The new kid on the block, though, is Melissa Rauch, the latest to lend her pipes to the former Clown Princess of Crime.
Before I discuss the story itself, I’d like to take a moment to say Rauch is being given a lot of undeserved flack for her performance, which is actually quite good. Truth be told, she’d make a good fit for Ms. Quinn in live action, not just in animation. I think most peoples’ problems are rooted in this ridiculous notion that you have to do an Arleen Sorkin impression. Really, as long as the actress in question speaks with a Brooklyn accent, she’s doing it right. Calm down.
When it comes to plot, it’s rather basic: Batman and Nightwing must stop Poison Ivy and the Floronic Man from turning all human life on Earth into human-plant hybrids. Actually, when I lay it out like that, it seems quite silly – and it is, because it sounds like something that would’ve happened on one of the old Super Friends cartoons.
Luckily, the Dynamic Duo bring Harley along for the ride and, trust me, it’s the journey that shines, not the destination. While 2017’s other DC animated offerings – Justice League Dark and Teen Titans: The Judas Contract – were technically better films, this may be the one I revisit most in the long-run just because it’s so damn fun.
Now, some may liken the content to fan fiction, especially the sex scene between Harley and Nightwing (only the prelude and aftermath are shown, so don’t freak out), but I don’t see what the big deal is. Yes, it kind of plays out like what you’d see in a movie directed by Axel Braun, but there’s nothing wrong with romantically pairing various characters as time stretches on. Funnily enough, Dick actually calls out Bruce for having messed around with supervillains himself.
Furthermore, I think this entry does nothing to diminish or deviate from what we know to be the character of Harley Quinn. Well, that is, of course, only if your knowledge of her is strictly limited to Batman: The Animated Series. In the time since, she’s generously evolved in cartoons and other media, especially the comic books that I read religiously. Actually, I found Rauch’s version of her to be comparable personality-wise to the one residing in current comics, only she wears the classic jester costume instead of derby girl attire.
Still, the product isn’t perfect. Like I said, the journey is more satisfying. The overall narrative is somewhat thin, there are two musical numbers that go on for way too long and the ending falls a bit flat – but the post-credits scene definitely makes up for the latter. Seriously, if you ever wanted to see what a Dr. Phil-American Ninja Warrior hybrid would look like, you need to stick around for it.
As for the bonus features, those were among the most enjoyable I’ve seen included with a DC animated movie in some time. “The Harley Effect” looks back at the character’s inception and follows her to the pop culture queen that she is today, while “Loren Lester: In His Own Voice” provides an intimate look at the man who many regard as the definitive voice of Dick Grayson.
If you’ve stayed with me for this long, you’ve probably guessed that I don’t see Batman and Harley Quinn as dethroning the likes of Mask of the Phantasm or Under The Red Hood when it comes to the Caped Crusader’s best animated outings, but again, there’s a lot of fun to be had here. Just know that it’s probably best you have a vested interest in Harley herself in order to get the most out of it.
While Batman and Harley Quinn may not be the Dark Knight's greatest animated adventure, it's likely to make the majority of its viewers laugh out loud throughout. Prudes need not apply.