BATMAN & ROBIN (1997) 

George Clooney
Arnold Schwarzenegger
Chris O'Donnell
Uma Thurman
Alicia Silverstone
Michael Gough
John Glover
Elle Macpherson
Vivica A. Fox

Joel Schumacher


Time: 130 mins.
Rating: PG-13
Genre: Action/Comic Book/Superhero

Everyone has their opinion on who the best Batman is. Keaton gave the character mystery, Kilmer a sense of danger and Clooney a touch of righteousness. Now if they could only blend the three... Clooney isn't a bad Batman, they just don't give him anything interesting to do. Besides fight evil villains, which is pretty much par for the course. In this fourth installment I was looking for a little depth of character, something to make the trip worthwhile. Instead, Schumacher delivers much of the same: mysterious super hero, amazing art direction, overdone special effects, high-action stunts. Not necessarily bad entertainment, however, not exactly ground breaking either. At least Tim Burton, tried to infuse a bit of depth and soul into his versions of the piece. This plays more like a video game than a movie.

Clooney, for his part, is certainly the most emotional accessible Batman. The most grounded and human. Kilmer and Keaton were too stiff and cartoony. Here we get to see the man behind the mask. When out of costume, you can see every emotion on his cute little face. In costume, they pretty much all look the same. Though Clooney does have the best voice of the three. It could melt butter. If you watched fight clips of each of them put together, I bet you'd be hard-pressed to tell the difference. Only the villains would give them away. This time the plot has Batman fighting Mr. Freeze, a demented scientist, and Poison Ivy, an overenthusiastic environmentalist, over the fate of Gotham City. Surprise, surprise. What will they think up next?

Obviously, Batman isn't a good enough super hero to battle these evildoers on his own, because they've brought back Robin (O'Donnell) and added Alicia Silverstone as Bat Girl to give him a hand. We don't get to learn enough about Batman without diluting the story further by spending valuable screen time with bratty kids looking to play with cool toys. O'Donnell may be the most consistent actor in the series, beside Alfred, but he gets more annoying with each film. He whines more here than a 2-year-old in a candy store.

"I hate to disappoint you but my rubber lips are immune to your charms."

Maybe if he shut up and stopped shouting for attention, Batman would trust his abilities and actually request his help. Silverstone's sassy schoolgirl turned action hero is clearly included to appease the feminist cry for equality. More bratty, than brawny, she fails to deliver a believable performance. The only interesting character in this film is Uma Thurman's Poison Ivy. As a plant lover gone bad, she chews up all the scenery she gets her little green thumbs on, going so over-the-top as to actually be believable. She's menacing, mean-spirited and sexy as hell. Mr. Freeze, on the other hand, left me cold.

The unwieldy costume, uninspired character motivation, leaden delivery and appallingly awful one-liners make for one ridiculous super villain. Arnold has shown in the past that he can be kick-ass scary, but that's not in evidence here. A performance that adds to the flatness of the enterprise. Clooney has an inherent goofy quality that doesn't help much either. He captures the mystery, but not the physicality of the role. The best casting in the film is Vendala, as Mrs. Freeze. It's the perfect part for a model in a movie – frozen in suspended animation, unable to speak. Elle McPherson and Vivica Fox are used for nothing but their beauty. Neither is memorable.

As you might well expect by now, the effects are good, the fight scenes well choreographed and the production design fabulous. However, that's just not enough anymore. I'm still waiting for Mr. Schumacher to put as much effort into the script as he does the sets and costumes. Maybe then he'd make a film worth sitting through. He might even get nominated for awards in categories other than design and effects. I won't be holding my breath.

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