By Mark Judge
NEW YORK (CNS) — Is there a more ridiculous character in all of comics than Harley Quinn?
The madcap former psychiatrist and sidekick to the Joker has no superpowers, has an annoying New Jersey accent and dresses like a court jester. She’s not exactly the first one you’d call if Darkseid or some other major galactic threat appeared.
Harley also is the irksome center of attention in “Batman and Harley Quinn” (Warner Bros.), a poorly conceived and morally obtuse straight-to-video animated film from DC Comics. Inappropriate fare for youngsters, discerning adults, too, will want to leave this movie aside.
The proceedings do start with a good premise. Frustrated with increasing environmental devastation caused by humans, eco-terrorist Poison Ivy (voice of Paget Brewster) and man-plant hybrid the Floronic Man (voice of Kevin Michael Richardson) team up to transform all animal life, human and otherwise, into plants.
To accomplish this, they use research that Louisiana scientist Alec Holland conducted — before Holland became the beastly green monster known as the Swamp Thing, that is. Holland’s work is stored in a high-security lab in Gotham City, and when Ivy and the Floronic Man attempt a hack to get the formula, Batman (voiced by Kevin Conroy) and his former Robin, aka Dick Grayson, now the adult vigilante known as Nightwing (voice of Loren Lester), try to stop them.
The criminals get away, but Batman and Nightwing suspect that Poison Ivy is behind the plot. The two heroes turn to Harley Quinn (voice of Melissa Rauch), a friend of Ivy’s, for help tracking her pal down.
If developed properly, “Batman and Harley Quinn” could have been an interesting meditation on the importance of environmentalism that does not degenerate into fanaticism or earth worship. But the picture is overcome by awkward and offensive situations and jokes — as well as harsh punch-outs.
After besting Nightwing in a fight — something fairly inconceivable, considering Nightwing was trained by Batman and that Harley is a ditz who weighs about 90 pounds — Harley ties him up with duct tape and then seduces him. Again, we’re talking Nightwing here, a man who has gone toe-to-toe with the Joker but is apparently helpless against adhesives.
That’s not the end of the poor taste. On a ride to Louisiana to stop Poison Ivy and the Floronic Man, who have gone there to drop a toxin into the water of the Gulf Stream and thus spread it to humanity, Harley experiences noisy intestinal gas. If that slide into Adam Sandlerville isn’t bad enough, there’s also a scene that includes Two-Face’s twin henchmen assuming an unmistakably sexual position.
Legendary Batman writer and producer Bruce Timm, his co-writer James Krieg and director Sam Liu have all done much better work.
The film contains frequent cartoon combat violence, two suggestive sexual situations, one instance of scatological humor and occasional profane, crude and crass language. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 — parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.
Judge is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.