Late to the party on this one, but based on how awful the party itself was, I’m not upset.
Batman and Harley Quinn is a direct-to-video DC animated film written by Bruce Tim and directed by Sam Liu. It stars Melissa Raunch as Harley Quinn after she has now supposedly reformed and trying to make an honest living. That’s all upended when Batman (Kevin Conroy) and Nightwing (Loren Lester) must work with her to stop a global threat by Poison Ivy (Paget Brewster) and the Fluronic Man (Kevin Michael Richardson).
Part animated series, part Harley redemption story and part flat out comedy, Batman and Harley Quinn is trying to be many things but unfortunately succeeds at none of them. It is one hell of a pitch – Batman teaming up with Harley in an original story written by Bruce Timm (legendary animated series writer). But unfortunately very little of that potential appears on-screen in a movie that feels bizarrely written and incredibly poorly conceived.
Lets start off with the good things, and that has to do almost entirely with its roots in the animated series. Not only does the art style completely nail the look and feel of the show decades after it aired, returning voices Conroy and Lester are both fantastic. Conroy especially could embody the character in his sleep, and goes a long way in making this feel like part of the same universe. That however is where the compliments stop. This film (and Bruce Timm’s screenplay) tries many things, but beyond that animated homage almost none of it works. It tries to be a straight comedy and yet isn’t funny. Tries to be a redemption story for Harley and doesn’t succeed. Even homaging the animated series doesn’t work because the tone is so haphazardly different and all over the place that it could never truly feel part of that same universe.
In the voice department its just as rough. I may have mentioned the two shining lights already, but I’m yet to get to Harley herself – mostly because she’s bad. I don’t know why Raunch was chosen for this role, but was Arleen Sorkin or Tara Strong not available?! Its baffling considering how hard they’re leaning into the animated series that they couldn’t get the original voice actress back for the star of the film. While Harley has always had a valley girl, ditzy voice, Raunch turns it up to eleven in the worst, most grating way possible. And considering she’s the main character, has to deliver most of the film’s jokes and even has a musical number (did I mention this film’s tone is confused?) that’s a serious problem. At least the rest of the cast, including Brewster, Richardson and the legendary John DiMaggio fare much better – but even they’re not enough to save this derailment.
You know your film’s in a bad way when the only things good to say about it is how it references something far superior. A weak plot with absurd tonal inconsistencies, a grating lead performance and comedy that deflates faster than the Joker’s whoopie cushion, this isn’t so much a recommendation as it is a warning. It may not receive the title of ‘worst DC animated film’ but it gets damn close.
General Audiences: Not Recommended
True Believers (Batman): Burn it