“Holy Props Department Batman!”
Justin’s rating: Some days you just can’t get rid of a bomb
Justin’s review: Often people can’t let go of their past. Sometimes because it haunts them, sometimes it’s out of nostalgia, and sometimes it’s because the present is just too painful in comparison. A mix of all three, I suppose, dwelt in the hearts of Adam West and Burt Ward, the actors who famously played Batman and Robin on the ultra-campy 1960s Batman TV series as well as in Batman the Movie. Typecast forever, the two would spend the rest of their lives with the mixed bag of mockery and fame following them.
So if they are already saddled with that baggage, they might as well grab a few extra bucks! Hence a CBS Sunday Movie in 2003 titled Return to the Batcave: The Misadventures of Adam and Burt. Unlike Leonard Nimoy, who penned I Am Not Spock in an effort to distance himself from the role that made him so popular, all this TV movie does is firmly cement West and Ward’s relationship to their incredibly ancient series and remind us that people do, indeed, get a lot older and fatter as time goes on.
It’s a horrible, low-budget affair, and unless you’re looking for a little pain to augment your hellish life or a cheap target for your derision, walk elsewhere and fast. Jokes don’t just fall flat, they plow into the ground at Mach 2. The only slightly amusing gag was how West kept making Ward pay for everything, suggesting that he’s either an incredibly cheap jerk or a very broke guy.
Playing a pseudo-version of their real selves, West and Ward are aging actors who find themselves called to a charity event where the Batmobile from the ’60s series is stolen by a mysterious cackling figure. Just like in the show, they receive moronic, abstract clues to solve, and they chase down the culprit as fast as two senior citizens with mild-to-severe heart conditions can. Since this all has to do with their salad days in television, a tenuous plot device springs into action, and flashbacks of how the ’60s series came about.
I shouldn’t have to tell you that all of this is pretty odd. West and Ward play a weird version of themselves that’s like the uncanny valley of personalities. They continually act and talk like they’re still on Batman, which is all levels of creepy and suggests that the show made them who they are today and they just can’t let go even though it’s almost four decades later.
The whole affair is a weird meta-biographical, movie-within-movie-within-movie. This is especially true when you add actual Batman actors reprising their villainous roles and the flashbacks featuring Jack Brewer and Jason Marsden as the actors-playing-actors-playing Bat and the Boy Wonder. The flashback scenes are infinitely more interesting (and less campy) than the West/Ward segments, but because this we assume this is a fictionalized account of the stories behind the series, there’s no way to ascertain if any of this actually happened — yet some of it clearly did, according to what limited research I poured into this review.
What’s even stranger is that there seems to be a limit on how strong of a connection that this film can make to the Batman name. It’s as if they had only a limited number of times they could mention “Batman” out loud or use the logo, and the rest of the time the actors clumsily say stuff like “remember during that series we used to do?” or “Aha! Like on the TV show!” What’s even odder is that any archive footage that’s shown is strictly from the movie, as the producers had licensing problems obtaining the TV footage for use.
As I said, you can’t blame them for milking an extra buck or two from the golden albatross that’ll always hang around their neck, especially with the revitalized Batman craze. Maybe there will even be a sequel? Same bat-time? Same bat-channel?