Watching Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders must be what it would feel like taking a trip into the trusty Bat Time Device. One where sidekicks weren’t killed, backs weren’t broken, Batman and Superman weren’t constantly at each other’s throats and the solution to any problem were just a utility belt pouch away.
There’s a joy to Return of the Caped Crusaders that’s impossible to deny. It’s innocent and appropriately goofy fun crafted by a team that can hardly contain its adoration for the source material. That love is so apparent it might just win over a new generation of fans as well.
Complete disclosure here: Adam West was my first Batman. Whether hearing him voice Batman in Super Friends or watching reruns of the 1966 TV series, West is still the first name that comes to mind when I think of Batman. Ditto for Burt Ward’s Robin. So hearing them reprise their roles was enough of a selling point for me.
It’s been 50 years since the Batman TV show aired so it’s understandable that the original cast doesn’t sound as peppy as they did in their heyday. Honestly, even at 75 percent it’s a thrill hearing West, Ward and Julie Newmar voice characters they helped make iconic.
It’s ironic that moviegoers are now complaining that the DC Universe films are too dark and serious. That slant toward grim and gritty was in large part due to the pun-happy, tongue-in-cheek take on the not so Dark Knight. Thanks to TV, movies and comic books, audiences are more open to numerous interpretations of Batman. As much as I thoroughly enjoyed Ben Affleck’s terrific take on Batman, there’s just something really enjoyable about a straight-laced uptight Batman played for laughs.
Laughs are in abundance here thanks to the outstanding script by Michael Jelenic and James Tucker. They fit modern storytelling into the framework of the 66 series. The script is full of puns and the utility belts are stuffed with the appropriate device for every situation. Batman ’66 is a property that would be easy to ridicule for its simplistic approach, but Jelenic and Tucker handle it with reverence. That goes a long way to making the film work.
Warner Bros. Animation films have skewed a bit more adult-oriented as of late so this throwback was welcome for its fun for the entire family approach. Batman and Robin tangle with their longtime rivals The Joker (Jeff Bergman), The Penguin (William Saylers), The Riddler (Wally Wingert) and Catwoman (Newmar).
The quartet gets their hands on a replica device and Catwoman devises a scheme to make Batman join their team. While the plan doesn’t completely work, it does create a major nuisance for the Dynamic Duo. Director Rick Morales comes up with some pretty clever fight sequences including one in an anti-gravity environment.
Alfred, Commissioner Gordon, Aunt Harriet and Chief O’Hara play supporting roles, but fans of the show will catch a slew of cameos in one sequence. The only significant character to miss the fun is Batgirl. Maybe next time?
Return of the Caped Crusaders is a blast and one that kept me smiling and laughing right til the end. In a lot of ways it felt like the sequel to Batman: The Movie. Here’s hoping it won’t take another 50 years for another edition.
Rating: 9.5 out of 10
Image Credit: Warner Bros. Animation