Movie Review By Monica Sullivan
Because it stars my favorite "Batman" ever, "Batman and Robin" is, for this viewer, the most enjoyable entry in the series to date. Adam West gave a camp quality to the character, Michael Keaton turned him into a bit of a psycho & Val Kilmer injected him with so much infectious testosterone that a ten-year-old boy tried to pick up me and a friend with the deathless line, "Say, are you two women alone?" George Clooney's interpretation makes The Dark Knight more of a humanist. Check out the sequence where he tries to comfort an ailing Alfred Pennyworth (Michael Gough): Clooney hasn't been playing Dr. Doug Ross on "ER" for the last three years for nothing. On the other hand, he & Elle MacPherson as girlfriend Julie Madison have zero sexual chemistry together & their awkward sequences together are painful to watch. (And he was so sexy in "One Fine Day" with Michelle Pfeiffer & she was so sexy in "Sirens": Go figure!)
In this installment, Chris O'Donnell as Robin is suffering the pangs of jealousy because Batman always comes first. And Batgirl AKA Barbara Wilson is introduced in the form of Alicia Silverstone, 20. Now if I can nit-pick for a second, Barbara is supposed to be Alfred's niece & he's pushing eighty. His sister Peg is Barbara's mother. She's only seen in a 1930's photograph, but she's clearly a youthful Gloria Stuart (now 86 and soon to play a key role in James Cameron's "Titanic"). So Peg had Barbara when she was, what? 66? This is the second time in three weeks that filmmakers tried to slip in a detail that was obviously wrong, hoping that no one would notice: In "Till There Was You," Nina Foch, 73, plays an architect who designed a 1936 apartment complex, presumably as a twelve-year-old prodigy. Ah yes, zillions for glitz, but not a penny for trifles like accuracy.
Director Joel Schumacher broke into films as a costume designer in the seventies and a lot of care has gone into making "Batman and Robin" look great. Uma Thurman starts out as nice, mousey Pamela Isley, then she has a deadly encounter with John Glover as mad Dr. Jason Woodrue & is transformed into Poison Ivy, complete with henchman Bane (Jeep Swenson) & lavish costumes by Ingrid Ferrin & Robert Turturice. ("Why is it all the gorgeous ones are homicidal maniacs?" Batman laments. "Is it me?") Arnold Schwarzenegger starts out as nice Dr. Victor Fries, madly in love with wife Nora, then she falls victim to a fatal illness & he has an ALMOST fatal accident & so is transformed into Mr. Freeze, with make-up & costume to match.
Barbara Ling's no-holds-barred production design makes Gotham look more surreal than ever. Written by Akiva Goldsman, the script for "Batman and Robin" supplies plenty of opportunities for the villains to act out to their heart's content, but there is also a sad dimension to their evil deeds, because both started out as decent people until their lives were destroyed for reasons beyond their control. "Batman & Robin" opens nationally this week.
© 1997 • Monica Sullivan • Air Date: 6/25/97
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