Batman And Harley Quinn (2017)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 9/11/17
Director: Sam Liu
Cast: Kevin Conroy, Melissa Rauch, Paget Brewster, Loren Lester, Kevin Michael Richardson

"Smells like... discipline."

In honor of her 25th anniversary, Harley Quinn finally gets her own movie! Sort of. Poison Ivy (Paget Brewster) and Jason Woodrue (Kevin Michael Richardson) steal the formula for a dangerous biological weapon based on the research that led to the creation of Swamp Thing. They intend to cleanse the Earth by turning everyone and everything into plants, which naturally grabs Batman's attention. In order to track down Ivy's whereabouts, Batman (Kevin Conroy) and Nightwing (Loren Lester) enlist Harley Quinn's (Melissa Rauch) help, who has been off the grid and trying to go straight. Despite Batman's protests and superior firepower, Ivy's soft spot for Harley may be the only chance humanity has for survival.

The movie is delightfully nostalgic, and utilizes the same art style and character designs from "Batman: The Animated Series." Hearing Kevin Conroy and Loren Lester together again was simply wonderful, but I was disappointed that Arleen Sorkin didn't reprise her role as Harley. She played a major role in defining the character, and hearing someone else's voice is a constant distraction. To her credit, Melissa Rauch gives an excellent performance, but I was always consciously aware that it wasn't quite right. I'm surprised they didn't opt for Tara Strong, since her take on Harley in "Arkham City" was totally on point. The animation is crisp and clean and looks fantastic. It's amazing to compare the quality of this production to Harley's original appearances in "Batman: The Animated Series."

With a PG-13 rating, the humor is surprisingly raunchy and the material delves into adolescent fan service a bit too much for my tastes. Sexual innuendo runs rampant and Harley comes across as a lustful exhibitionist. The tone is reminiscent of the Adam West "Batman" TV series, which is a perfect fit for Harley's chaotic personality and wacky sensibilities. It even features references to that era when Batman and Nightwing arrive at a henchman's nightclub that's populated with memorable bad guys from the entire Batman spectrum. And yes, the Batusi is involved. The music also reflects the fun and campy tone of the film, and the animated intro is adorably cute and goofy. The movie has numerous challenges, hits a few sour notes, and not everything works, but it put a huge smile on my face and made me laugh harder than I have in a very long time. And that's no small feat.