A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Batman & Harley Quinn is a 2017 animated drama in which Batman and Nightwing (aka Robin) team up with an unlikely ally to save humanity from being turned into plants. Even as a feature on the "noir" side of the spectrum, the content, attitudes, and humor are more adult than similar Dynamic Duo offerings. For instance, after taking Nightwing prisoner by tying him to her bed, Harley Quinn strips to her bra and panties, and while deciding which outfit to wear, she turns and notices Nightwing's prominent erection (not shown). They have sex -- heard but not shown -- and Batman walks in on them during post-coital kissing and giggling. Shortly after, Harley Quinn tells Nightwing, "maybe I'll call you when I run out of batteries," an obvious vibrator reference. While working as a server in a superhero-themed diner, Harley Quinn breaks the arm of a customer who tries to grab her buttocks. In reference to Harley Quinn, an officer tells Batman, "I wouldn't say no to that slice of pie." Viewers will see the middle finger gesture, a gesture associated with masturbation, and hear "douche bag" used as an insult. During an excruciating karaoke version of the Blondie classic "Hangin' on the Telephone," Harley Quinn shakes her breasts in a provocative manner in a bar. In an extended scene inside the Batmobile, Harley Quinn passes gas several times as Nightwing expresses disgust in various ways while Batman tries to remain stoic. During a fight scene, instead of the iconic "Pow!" caption so frequently used in the 1960s Batman television series, the caption "Ow! My balls!" is used instead. There's also the expected comic book/cartoon violence of fighting with machine guns and handguns, punches and kicks. Characters are gored to death by a monster; one character is stabbed in the chest with a large wooden spike. The movie explores the idea of "two wrongs don't make a right," in the sense that the antagonists are resorting to eco-terrorism in the interest of saving the planet's fragile ecosystem by attempting to wipe out the human race.
- Parents say
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What's the story?
In BATMAN & HARLEY QUINN, Batman (Kevin Conroy) and Nightwing (aka Robin) (Loren Lester) are forced to become reluctant allies with Harley Quinn (Melissa Rauch), a Joker ally who has gone MIA since being paroled. They must find Harley Quinn because her best friend, Poison Ivy, has teamed up with Floronic Man to turn the human race into plant-based life forms, believing this to be the only way to stop humanity's worldwide environmental destruction. Nightwing finds Quinn working as a server in a superhero-themed restaurant, unable to find work as a psychiatrist due to her criminal background, and then Batman finds Nightwing and Quinn in the midst of giggling post-coital antics in Quinn's apartment. They persuade the reluctant Quinn to join them, and this unlikely trio must follow Poison Ivy and Floronic Man to Louisiana, where they have the best chance to create the perfect swampy concoction that will destroy humanity once and for all.
Is it any good?
Perhaps this is an attempt to move beyond the well-worn themes of moral ambiguity and cynical disdain so prevalent in the other "noir" Batman movies. Perhaps those involved with Batman & Harley Quinn believed the best way to do this was to present an antihero who has a New York accent that makes Fran Drescher sound like an upper-crust Downton Abbey heiress, and who has sex with Nightwing, talks of vibrators, farts in the Batmobile, and performs a painful karaoke version of Blondie's "Hangin' on the Telephone." Take the idea of vigilante justice away from the superheroes and give it to supervillains with an ecoterrorist bent. Revel in all that's possible, now that the Batman character is better known as the sullen enigma lurking in the gray areas of right and wrong than as the Adam West 1960s incarnation.
Does it work? Yes and no. While it's somewhat refreshing to bring some off-color levity to a series that often wallows in ponderous explorations of the dark sides of humanity, the humor often feels smug, glib, self-indulgent. And the Dr. Phil-style daytime talk-show parody comes off as cruel rather than funny. In the context of a story in which men sexually harass or make suggestive remarks about Harley Quinn, it seems there would be a male victim of her American Gladiator-style obstacle course more deserving than an emasculated, lonely, and depressed middle-aged cuckold with several cats for pets. However, some of the humor works, and it's nice to see depictions of females as more than mere mortals or the Amazonian projections of an animator's male gaze.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how the idea "two wrongs don't make a right" is explored in Batman & Harley Quinn. How does this play into the frequent themes of vigilante justice and revenge in other Batman movies?
How are sexism and sexual harassment presented here?
How are the female heroes and villains portrayed in this movie? How does this compare to the way women have been historically presented in stories centered on comic book superheroes?
- On DVD or streaming: August 29, 2017
- Cast: Kevin Conroy, Melissa Rauch, Paget Brewster
- Director: Sam Liu
- Studio: Warner Bros.
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Superheroes, Adventures, Book Characters, Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires
- Run time: 74 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: Sexual content, language, violence and action, and for rude humor.
- Last updated: January 21, 2020
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