Welcome to the Friday edition of the Daily Cartoon on Car JoeMez! I had mentioned that I was looking to do something new with this space and I was thinking that Fridays can be reserved for animated movies. Since I took away the weekends from you, I can try to give you something a bit more to lead you into them.
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I’ve always been a big fan of the 1960s Batman series that starred Adam West and Burt Ward. I grew up watching it in re-runs and even today you can still find it playing on some channel. There’s just something completely endearing about the campiness and how cheesy it can be while still remaining fun. I know it’s not everybody’s cup of tea as quite a few of you love your dark, brooding Batman, but for this guy, this works in a big way.
A while back on the podcast, Gomez had mentioned to me that this movie had come out and I’d probably like it. I had no idea it even existed, so I ordered a copy immediately since it did sound like something I’d enjoy.
If you’re not familiar, Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders was theatrically released for like a day or two in select markets, but – for all intents and purposes – was a direct-to-DVD deal that featured the original Dynamic Duo getting back in action.
That’s right, folks: Adam West and Burt Ward pick up the mantle as Batman and Robin one more time. Hell, they even got Julie Newmar to voice Catwoman! Supposedly, this was done in the style of the ’66 Batman show and – honestly – that gives me half a chub. I’m fucking excited for this.
This movie has a run time of just about 80 minutes so I suppose this could get a little lengthy. I’m just giving you a heads-up since I do have a habit of going completely off the rails and ranting about something ridiculous at times.
So, with all that said, let’s watch a cartoon!
Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders (2016)
Our opening credits sequence gives us a play on the old Batman opening with Batman and Robin knocking out bad guys and credits popping up in the sound effect bubbles. I’m already invested just off that. This just has to be good.
We open in Wayne Manor with Dick Grayson practicing ballet moves while Bruce tells him ballet promotes balance, discipline and flexibility: all things that aid in their never-ending fight against crime. Bruce tells Dick that even heroes need breaks for mindless entertainment and they decide to watch a TV variety show. Turns out, the musical guest has been kidnapped and replaced by the Joker, Penguin, Riddler and Catwoman.
We get some tremendous old-school Batman-verbiage which has me fucking giddy. I’m loving this shit. The Bat-Signal shines through the window and as the duo goes running out, they’re stopped by Aunt Harriet who says you’d think they’re Batman and Robin running out like that. They explain that they’re going fishing to relax from the stresses of being a billionaire playboy and his teenage ward. Aunt Harriet makes a comment to Alfred about the lengths they go to to hide “their secret”, obviously inferring that they’re gay. This is top-notch stuff, people.
The two meet up with Commissioner Gordon and – in typical fashion – solve a clue left by the Riddler just by thinking aloud and coming up with something utterly ridiculous. They run out and start their search which leads to my favorite scene in the first ten minutes of this movie: Batman lecturing Robin on the dangers of jaywalking, especially when it’s dark and they’re unlikely to be seen by passing motorists. Robin understands that nobody is above the law even when you’re trying to enforce it and Batman exclaims, “Quickly, Robin! To the cross walk!” I honestly don’t have a large enough vocabulary to really get across how amazing I find this.
Cut to our villains who are robbing a laboratory of their new invention: the replica ray! It’s a gun that can scan anything and produce an exact replica of it. Batman and Robin jump on the scene and we get our first fight sequence complete with sound-effect word graphics for all the big hits. I swear, it’s like they wrote this just for me.
We get a nice scene where Catwoman tries seducing Batman which was a constant theme on the original show. Batman always had a crush and tried to convince her to go straight so they could get together. All this does here, however, is allow the heels an opportunity to escape with the Replica Ray.
The bad guys get away for now, but another riddle left behind is taken by the heroes and put in the Bat-Analyzer: a computer which contains the knowledge of TWO sets of encyclopedias! It leads the Dynamic Duo to believe that the baddies are holed up at the local TV dinner factory. This is so fucking good.
We got another kerfuffle here that leaves Catwoman as the last villain standing. She implores Batman to allow her to fix her hair so she looks good for the judge and Batman – always smitten – agrees. However, the sinful succubus takes the moment to spray Batman and Robin with a noxious gas that incapacitates our heroes. When they awake, they’re tied to a giant TV dinner on a conveyor belt about to be loaded into a giant oven. The bad guys, of course, leave the scene assuming they’ve ended the reign of the heroes. Batman, however, always thinking, is able to use the acid from the lemon tart in the dessert section to loosen his constraints and escape the trap just in time.
In the meantime, it seems as if Catwoman’s spray has had a strange effect on the Bat as now he’s acting like a complete dickhead. Back at Wayne Manor, Bruce fires Alfred for not stopping Aunt Harriet from getting into his study and almost finding out their secret identities. Robin is thrown off-guard by this and is suspicious of Bruce, but doesn’t quite yet feel that something more sinister is in-play.
The heroes scour Gotham, but can’t find a trace of the villainous quartet. Robin says it’s like they’re not even on the planet and Batman concludes they must have stowed-away on a rocket that was just launched into space. But of course! Our heroes jump into the Bat-Rocket and head into space to finally put away these criminals.
While in space, Joker, Penguin and Riddler conclude that they must rid themselves of Catwoman since she’s soft on Batman and could cost them everything. They fight between themselves as the Caped Crusaders arrive at the orbiting space station where the heels are hiding out. The baddies throw Catwoman into an airlock and attempt to shoot her into the atmosphere, but she’s saved by the good guys who just happen to be sneaking in through the same airlock chamber.
Batman, Robin and now Catwoman storm into the control center and Batman is now feeling pure vengeance. Apparently, he doesn’t believe in laws or justice anymore and wants to throw Joker, Penguin and Riddler into the airlock themselves. This leads us into a anti-gravity fight scene which is chock-full of goodness, but ends with a Bat-A-Rang knocking the anti-gravity controls back. Batman puts on his brass-Batknucks and we even get a, “you wanna get nuts? Let’s get nuts,” as he completely knocks the shit out of the treacherous trio. Catwoman, to her credit, uses this chance as an opportunity to jump in an escape pod and return to Earth.
Batman is now in full-on douche mode as he’s curt and insulting to everybody. Robin, Commissioner Gordon, even poor old Aunt Harriet is catching the wrath of Gotham’s protector. Bruce even unceremoniously banishes Dick from the Manor, telling him to join Alfred on Skid Row.
A sudden crime wave is overtaking Gotham and Batman is nowhere to be found. He’s given up the fight insisting that Gordon and the police clean up their own mess for once. Gordon is completely overwhelmed by the going-ons when Batman suddenly arrives at the police station. He completely shits on Gordon and Chief O’Hara and tells them they aren’t worthy of being cops. He then clones himself and names the new Batmen as the replacement Commissioner and Chief of Police. He also delivers an evil laugh saying that Batman will run Gotham and eventually the world!
Batman starts going around town replacing everybody with clones of himself: the Mayor, judges, even goddamn chefs and mechanics! This shit is bananas. B-A-N-A-N-A-S!
Robin, to his credit, has gotten his own tiny apartment and is practicing his ballet when it hits him that Catwoman’s elixir has worked on Batman, but that it was working slowly. He goes out looking for Catwoman to find the antidote and she agrees since she wanted Batman to be bad, but not this bad. Robin hits her with a dose of Bat-Sleep spray so he can get her into the Batcave without giving away the secret the location.
Batman is immediately aware of their presence. Catwoman hits the Bat with the antidote, but Batman was expecting it and had already taken the Bat-Anti-Antidote! What a dramatic turn of events! Batman and Robin then go into a utility belt duel which Batman wins rather handily. He then sets up Robin and Catwoman to be lowered into a nuclear silo while he drives off in the Batmobile so he can continue his rule over the city.
But Batman isn’t the only one who thinks ahead. Oh no! Robin anticipated that Batman would probably get the best of them and that the silo would be their likely end, so he took the liberty of spraying the two of them with the Bat-Anti-Isotope spray on the drive over so it would protect them from any radioactivity. Absolutely fucking brilliant, Boy Wonder.
After escaping, Robin and Catwoman go undercover as prison inspectors and start handing out items to prisoners Batman had previously put away that help them escape and care packages of their villain costumes. After they get over the wall, Robin and Catwoman show up in a van to pick them all up and head out to take on the Bat.
Batman has overtaken the TV variety show and has rigged all the sets in Gotham to explode if people change the channel, but just as he’s making his threat, he’s interrupted by Robin, Catwoman and now their entire cavalcade of classic Batman villains including Egghead, Mr. Freeze, King Tut and more!
We get a giant brawl between all the bad guys and the Batman clones that have overtaken Gotham and it is sometimes interrupted by a Batman dance sequence which is the zenith of wonderfulness.
Just when Batman is about to put an end to those opposing him, a delivery man arrives with a bottle of champagne for the newest pop star of Gotham. He swigs it straight from the bottle in toast to himself and immediately starts choking. Turns out, the champagne has been spiked with the antidote to the Bat-Anti-Antidote! He starts returning to normal as the clones spontaneously combust into dust.
Robin wonders who sent the bottle and Alfred appears from the darkness stating that he’s had a long-standing agreement with Bruce that if he were ever to be fired, it would be because he was under some kind of mind-control. He’d also been given the specifications to concoct the potion needs and – BAM – Batman is good again.
All is settled except for one thing: Joker, Riddler and Penguin are still out there and Batman has been one step behind from the get-go. Finally, he realizes that they’ve tricked him with clones of themselves to keep him busy while they went around stealing all of the valuable art and artifacts in Gotham!
They track down the three, but they take off into the night in the Penguin Blimp. Batman and Robin jump in their Whirly-Bats to begin the chase. Of course, the good guys are able to catch up and we get a full battle on the top of the blimp. Of course, the good guys get the duke, but Catwoman – who they thought was on their side for good, takes off with the priceless art after Batman turns down her offer of disappearing to Europe and sipping tea while spending their life together to which Robin exclaims, “Holy unsatisfying ending!” It sure was, Boy Wonder. It sure was.
Catwoman escapes to fight another day as Batman wonders what could have been.
We get a final scene back at Wayne Manor where they’ve thrown Aunt Harriet a birthday party. This puts her mind at ease about what their secret was the whole time and that they can stop with all the late-night fishing nonsense. Just then, the Bat signal appears and Bruce and Dick run off to save the day as a speechless Aunt Harriet wonders what their deal really is.
Simply stated: I fucking loved this.
It’s obviously ridiculous, but done in a way that kept true to the spirit and theme of the original show. The script, scenarios and explanations were all really well done and I would have a hard time believing that anybody who enjoys the original series wouldn’t be all over this.
Supposedly, they’re making another one of these movies with William Shatner providing the voice of Two-Face and I absolutely cannot wait for that.
I’m really glad this exists and that we’re getting a kind of “one more run” for Adam West and Burt Ward especially after all the years when all you heard was how much they hated each other and refused even doing conventions and appearances together. As a fan, you want to believe that things are great between them and maybe that they even have that mentor/old chum relationship off-screen. I don’t necessarily need that, but I’m super happy they were able to put aside whatever differences they had and provide a little fan service here.
All in all, a very fun and entertaining flick that I’m really happy to have checked out. I urge you to do the same as it’s easily available in digital or hard-copy formats. If you love that Batman, you’ll love this.
Have a great weekend and thanks for reading.