Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman

Reviewed By David Cornelius
Posted 06/17/05 20:37:54

"A fine swan song for the Batman animation team."
3 stars (Just Average)

Just when I thought Warner Brothers Animation had finally retired their Batman line in order to move ahead with such series as “Justice League” and “Teen Titans,” along comes the direct-to-video “Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman.”

Picking up the story right around the era of the later “Batman” cartoons (for you Batgeeks out there, that’s pre-“Batman Beyond,” after the “Batman/Superman” redesign, with Bats in the all-grey suit and Tim Drake as Robin; for you non-Batgeeks, none of what I just mentioned is actually important), the film plays more or less as just an extended episode of the show - nothing along the “this is a movie, let’s do something really special” vibe that made “Mask of the Phantasm” and “Return of the Joker” so great.

Still, lower level “Batman” from Warner Animation is still darn good stuff, and “Batwoman” is bound to thrill anyone hoping to see a Bruce Wayne adventure that’s better than a certain Schumacher film.

As the film opens, we’re introduced to a woman dressed up in Batgear and calling herself “Batwoman,” riding around on a jet-platform-thingy and blowing up a truckload of smuggled weapons. Just another Bat in Gotham? Well, we’re not quite sure, since our old crimefighting pals Batman (voiced by Kevin Conroy) and Robin (Eli Marienthal) have no idea who this woman is.

We’re then introduced to three possible suspects. Kathy Duquesne (Kimberly Brooks) is the spoiled daughter of crime boss Carlton Duquesne (Kevin Michel Richardon), although she may not be so content with daddy’s illegal doings. Roxanne “Rocky” Valentine (Kelly Ripa) is a scientist recently hired by Waynetech, and she may not be as scatterbrained and as clumsy as she first appears; also, her boyfriend has been framed for murder by the Penguin (David Ogden Stiers). Sonia Alcana (Elisa Gabrielli) is the new detective at Gotham PD, whose family was long ago killed by mafia kingpin Rupert Thorne (John Vernon).

Speaking of those three baddies, they’ve teamed up to share the spoils of a weapons deal, something about experimental guns which we first saw in that opening sequence. Now, maybe it’s the addition of the Penguin to this roster, but the three villains here provide more comic relief than actual threat. Not that this is a bad thing; it’s kind of a hoot to see Thorne go from ruthless gangster to bumbling fool merely by having the Penguin as an associate. (It’s usually hard to play realistic visual gags in animation, but the animators manage to add a few giddy sight gags that you’d think would only work in a live action picture.)

Anyway, the “mystery” of the title won’t be that hard to deduce for you grown-up Batfans out there, but it’s pleasant enough and intriguing enough that its predictability never gets in the way. Besides, this is a kids’ movie, after all, and it may not be as predictable to the grade school crowd.

Well, wait... let me take that back. The “Batman” cartoons aren’t just kids’ movies. They’re made for anyone looking for a great story. Like the rest in Warners’ Bat line, “Batwoman” is not just some childish cartoon adventure. Here, you’ll find solid characters, a strong plot, clever writing, dynamic animation, thrilling action, and even a pretty cool theme song (“Betcha Neva,” performed by the Shakira-sounding Cherie). Putting it all together, if this same movie would have been told in live action form, it’d impress quite a few folks who’ve been waiting for a decent Batman movie. Yeah, your kids’ll get a kick out of “Batwoman,” but do yourself a favor and check it out for yourself. You may get a kick out of it, too.

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