DC continues to do really well with their animated movies. Their latest offering, “Batman and Harley Quinn” was another entertainingly good time. And they are definitely making the most of not having to worry about being a “kids’ cartoon” any more with their theatrical and Digital Video releases. Just like the adaptation of The Killing Joke dealt with a lot more adult themes, they do some scenes that never would have flown in the WB or Cartoon Network shows.
The basic plot is that Poison Ivy has teamed up with the Floronic Man and they’re cooking up some major trouble for the entire world. Batman and Nightwing (voiced by the talent from the legendary Batman: The Animated Series of Kevin Conroy and Loren Lester respectively) know how serious this is, and when you need insight on Poison Ivy, one of your best avenues is her best friend, Harley Quinn. Of course, Harley’s not exactly a hero (or stable) herself.
While Batman follows up on other leads with Sarge Steel, Nightwing is tasked with finding Harley and getting her help. She’s laying low and working at “Superbabes” a restaurant with very attractive waitresses in sexy versions of heroine costumes (it takes some effort to get a version of Power Girl’s outfit that’s even more revealing than her own). Nightwing follows Harley home, and, after a big showdown in an alley, uses a rather… unique… recruitment method to get her on their side. That’s definitely more of Harley than I’ve ever seen in an animated version.
Eventually, they manage to chase down the plant villains with, or in spite of, Harley’s help. In addition to Sarge Steel, there are cameos of varying types by Swamp Thing and Booster Gold, and they do touch on why, with a world-threatening peril, Batman doesn’t call in the Justice League. The showdown gets odd, and is resolved in part through some of Harley’s strangeness. But what do you expect, she’s one of the title characters.
This isn’t one of the more serious Batman movies, as you might expect with Harley playing such a big part. If that isn’t a clue, the title sequence certainly is. It’s an entertaining mix of the same general style as Batman: The Animated Series, but with some very adult digressions. There’s some very adult language, and hand gestures for that matter. One thing struck me as really odd, though. There’s implied sex and adult concepts, but the sexual relationship between Harley and Ivy seems to have been reset to just friends. They’re involved in the comics, and it was implied a lot in the cartoon, with writers later admitting that’s what they had in mind. So why they did away with that here, I’m not sure. It was an odd choice. All that to one side, it was a very entertaining bit of action and silliness. There was blood and death in addition to the other things I’ve mentioned, so this is definitely not a kids’ cartoon.
What I liked: I loved that they brought back Conroy and Lester as Batman and Nightwing. Harley was entertainingly insane, as expected. I loved that they mentioned her past with the Joker, but he didn’t show up and wasn’t a big factor. I’m glad they at least mentioned the League and made an effort to explain them not showing up. There were callbacks or Easter Eggs to not only The Animated Series but also the 60’s tv show.
What I didn’t: Arleen Sorkin did a wonderful job voicing Harley in the series. I’m sorry they didn’t bring her back for this, for whatever reason. Not that Melissa Rauch did a bad job, she didn’t. Not at all. I just view Sorkin as iconic to the role in the same way Conroy is to Batman. The Harley/Ivy relationship being changed struck me as really odd. The ending happening the way it did was weird. I admit to bias, but Nightwing is a favorite of mine, and he was bumped down to largely comic relief for this outing. One of the character cameos was both out of character and, as far as I could tell, pointless. They also oddly changed the backgrounds of both Poison Ivy and Floronic Man.
Batman: Harley Quinn is worth watching, and made me laugh out loud several times. I’d give this a high 3.5 out of 5.