One month after releasing the first Batman: The Animated Series movie, Batman: Mask Of The Phantasm, on Blu-ray, Warner Brothers are following it up with the latest spin-off from that ‘toon, Batman And Harley Quinn, which is available on Blu-ray/DVD/digital combo pack; 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray/Blu-ray/digital combo pack, DVD, and in a limited edition gift set that pairs the Blu-ray/DVD/digital combo pack with a 4″-tall Harley Quinn toy. But while Batman And Harley Quinn may not be as good as Batman: Mask Of The Phantasm, or as strongly connected and aligned with Batman: The Animated Series, it’s still a worthy addition to any Bat-fans collection.
Written by Bruce Timm (who co-created Batman: The Animated Series) and Jim Krieg (Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox), and directed by Sam Liu (Batman: Year One), Batman And Harley Quinn finds Batman and Nightwing teaming up with Harley Quinn when they learn her B.F.F. Poison Ivy is planning an eco-terrorist attack. In other words, it’s The Silence Of The Lambs…if Clarice wore a cape.
In many ways, Batman And Harley Quinn feels like an episode of Batman: The Animated Series. Not only do voice actors Kevin Conroy and Loren Lester reprise their roles as Batman and Nightwing, respectfully, but it also has the same character designs and visual style. Though it’s not quite as art deco-esque in its architecture; in that regard, it looks more like Justice League Unlimited.
But in other ways, Batman And Harley Quinn is more like an animated version of the ’60s Batman TV show crossed with Justice League Action. Not only are there some funny references to the former show, but this is decidedly more lighthearted than your typical episode of Batman: The Animated Series. Or, for that matter, the other connected Bat-films Batman & Mr. Freeze: Sub-Zero, The Batman And Superman Movie, and Batman: Mystery Of The Batwoman. Though, interestingly, it’s not just because of Harley; some of the best quips come from Batsy. Even better, the humor is actually clever and not all that jokey. Well, except for when Harley gets gassy.
Where Batman And Harley Quinn actually runs into problems is aurally. For starters, the score sometimes sounds like it was taken from the ’60 show, which doesn’t fit with the movie’s tone or rest of its music. Also, while Melissa Rauch (The Big Bang Theory) and Paget Brewster (Criminal Minds) are fine as Harley and Ivy, respectfully, they’re not as good as Arlene Sorkin and Diane Pershing were in Batman: The Animated Series.
Batman And Harley Quinn also seems oddly padded out at times. Harley’s aforementioned fart jokes take up more time than they deserve, while her musical number — a clever nod to when she went punk rock in Harley Quinn: Rebirth: Volume 1: Die Laughing — seems unnecessarily drawn out as well. Which is ironic give that the most common problem with the DC Animated Universe movies is that they’re too short.
Still, Batman And Harley Quinn isn’t undermined by these shortcomings. The story is solid, and puts an interesting superheroic twists on the whole 48 Hours, Silence Of The Lambs trope, while the choreography in the fight scenes is clever and intricate, especially the one between Harley and Nightwing.
Batman And Harley Quinn is also refreshing because it’s an original story, not an adaptation of a comic book, which we don’t often enough. Sure, some of the comic adaptations have been good, most notably Superman/Batman: Public Enemies (which was based on Jeph Loeb’s Superman/Batman: Volume 1: Public Enemies) and Superman/Batman: Apocalypse (an adaptation of Loeb’s Superman/Batman: Volume 2: Supergirl). But the best bat-flicks — Batman: Mask Of The Phantasm, Batman: Gotham Knight, and Batman: Assault On Arkham — were all original stories.
Along with the movie, the Batman And Harley Quinn Blu-rays also include a bunch of extras that fans of the film will appreciate. It’s just too bad the same can’t be said for the DVD.
First up on the Batman And Harley Quinn Blu-rays is “Loren Lester: In His Own Voice,” a featurette on the actor who’s voiced Dick Grayson, as both Robin and Nightwing, in various cartoons and video games since Batman: The Animated Series started in 1992.
Next, the Batman And Harley Quinn Blu-rays present “The Harley Effect,” which includes interviews with her creator, Paul Dini, other people who’ve worked with her, as well as a clinical psychologist who analyzes Harley’s behavior. It’s an interesting look at the character, though it contains nothing — save for the psychology and the parts about Batman And Harley Quinn — that longtime fans won’t already know.
The Batman And Harley Quinn Blu-rays also have a look at the next DC Comics animated movie, Batman: Gotham By Gaslight, an expanded adaptation of the 1989 alternate universe comic in which The Caped Crusader chases Jack The Ripper. As usual, this pairs footage from the movie with crew interviews, and serves as part teaser, part making-of featurette.
This also has the sneak peeks for the Batman: The Dark Knight, Part 1, Batman: The Dark Knight, Part 2, and Batman: Assault On Arkham, as well as the trailers for the animated movies Teen Titans: The Judas Contract and Justice League Dark, and the live-action films Justice League and Wonder Woman.
Lastly, the Batman And Harley Quinn Blu-rays have two relevant episodes of Batman: The Animated Series: “Harley And Ivy” and “Harley’s Holiday.” Though, unfortunately, they clearly haven’t been remastered for HD.
As for the Batman And Harley Quinn DVD, it sadly just has the sneak peek of the Gotham By Gaslight movie.
While the DVD of Batman And Harley Quinn may not be as good as the Blu-rays, even they have room for improvement. For instance, this could use a making-of featurette. Or they just could’ve included the sneak peek that was on the Teen Titans: The Judas Contract Blu-rays and DVD since, as I said about the ones included here, they’re basically making-of featurettes already.
It also would’ve been cool if “The Harley Effect” had included interviews with Rauch, Arleen Sorkin — who inspired the character and did Harley’s voice in Batman: The Animated Series — or actress Margot Robbie (The Wolf Of Wall Street), who played her in Suicide Squad. Or if they’d included the movie’s trailers, along with a running commentary by Timm, Conroy, Lester, and Rauch.
In the end, Batman And Harley Quinn is yet another solid adventure for The Dark Knight, his sullen sometime sidekick, and one of their better antagonists. And while the DVD comes up short, the extras on the Blu-rays help those versions to do this good movie justice.