I figured I knew what to expect with the animated movie Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders, starring the voices of Adam West, Burt Ward, and Julie Newmar. Based on DC's Batman '66 comic, at least, it might be a cute, serviceable gloss on the campy TV show’s formula. But whereas Batman '66 never seemed as good as I hoped it would be, Return of the Caped Crusaders goes in all sorts of crazy and inspired directions.
Initially the film unites the show's most iconic villains — including Newmar's seductive Catwoman, natch — in a plot that seems not unlike the old Batman: The Movie. But then things just keep getting more outlandish. There's a Big Bad I honestly didn't see coming. There are mythology gags galore: my favorite was when Batman's head is spinning and his vision conjures up "three" Catwomen, one of whom looks an awful lot like Eartha Kitt. There's even a sojourn in space!
The latter is just one way the movie cleverly exploits the expanded possibilities of animation. For one, the super villains can fight directly with our heroes without the aid of henchmen. For another, West, Ward, and Newmar can return to their roles decades later. I was initially distracted by how old West in particular sounds — it's undeniable that he's no longer the youthful hunk who deadpanned his way through the '60s series. But that's actually part of the charm, especially when he delivers lines like "Let's do this." (That's another thing: the movie, scripted by Michael Jelenic and James Tucker, is pretty hilarious.)
Since the iconic Newmar is back, her Catwoman is given plenty to do. Her seductive dance with Batman — and annoyance with Robin — was always one of the show's most potent elements, so this gives the movie a real boost.
If you're one of the fans looking forward to this year's The Lego Batman Movie, tide yourself over with this film. It does a wonderful job of both honoring the Bat's history and providing new fun.
Queerness: 2 (Aunt Harriet makes some wink-wink comments about Bruce and Dick’s relationship, and animated Julie Newmar and Vincent Price show up)
Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders is available on DVD and Blu Ray.