(1995, Action-Superhero, color)
Doug Walker, Brian Heinz and Rob Walker
When did Tommy Lee Jones decide to out-overact Jim Carrey?
In a Nutshell:
Tommy Lee Jones and Jim Carrey ham it up; sometimes Batman appears too.
Bifurcated villain Two Face (Tommy Lee Jones) holds Gotham City hostage because... um... Well, there’s this flying bank safe suspended above the crowd with Batman (Val Kilmer) inside, which causes Commissioner Gordon (Pat Hingle) some concern, while making criminal psychologist Chase Meridian (Nicole Kidman) really, really horny.
Several confusing and irrelevant scenes later, Two Face takes a circus hostage because... uh... Well, he’s got this bomb, but a family of acrobats dies to get rid of it. Batman alter ego Bruce Wayne feels guilty that they sacrificed themselves to do his dirty work, so he adopts the only surviving acrobat (Chris O’Donnell as Dick Grayson) even though they’re roughly the same age.
Mixed in we get scenes of disgruntled ex-Bruce Wayne employee Edward Nygma (Jim Carrey) and his gradual descent into madness... Okay, I can’t type that with a straight face. It’s more like a precipitous drop into somewhat increased madness, as he murders his supervisor to pursue independent development of his invention: a mind-reading blender that projects 3D fish. Raising capital for development of “The Box” (as he calls his cone-shaped contraption) involves calling himself The Riddler, donning a green costume and teaming up with Two Face to rob banks and jewelry stores.
Eventually “The Box” somehow helps Riddler and Two Face discover Batman’s true identity. They break into Wayne Manor and kidnap Chase, who’s been hanging around all this time getting increasingly horny. They don’t kidnap or kill Bruce/Batman though, because... er... Well, this is when Dick becomes a masked crime-fighter called Robin, and joins Batman to infiltrate a moving blender-shaped island filled with deep, pointy shafts and question mark spotlights. Two Face falls to his death. Riddler goes completely over the edge—which I thought he had already done to get to this point, but I guess the filmmakers were holding another edge in reserve just so that he could go over it. Anyway, he’s committed to Arkham Asylum, where he forgets that he ever knew about the Batman/Bruce Wayne thing. Robin becomes Batman’s official partner, while, as far as I can tell, poor horny Chase’s wild longings continue to go unfulfilled.
Does that summary make any sense at all? If so, then I have failed you. Batman Forever is a nonsensical barrage of color and ham that I could only accurately summarize by entering a poorly lit room to throw rainbow-colored paint on Jim Carrey. Looking back at this film, we can reflect on how all of us, every last member of the movie-watching public, must bear some of the blame for its apocalyptically bad sequel. Most of what makes Batman and Robin legendary—the awful camp, the preschool-level screenplay laced with near-explicit innuendo, the Blade Runner set reimagined as a homoerotic fantasyland—had already been inflicted on us by Batman Forever. Yes, Batman Forever is only one pun-spouting Austrian demi-human and a handful of rubber-coated genitals away from thorough and absolute Batman-themed degradation. We should have seen it coming. We should have said “no”.
While the lack of Schwarzenegger and batsuit nipples automatically makes this movie better by omission, Batman Forever does manage to do something right* in the casting of its villains. ‘Cause if your goal is to make a Batman movie that’s over-the-top camp, you can’t do better than Jim Carrey. Of the rest of the cast, the only person who matches his energy is Tommy Lee Jones, who apparently realized that the only way to make this material work was to impersonate Jim Carrey. (Mr. Jones is a highly talented actor, so it’s a frighteningly accurate impersonation.) If you’re a fan of Mr. Carrey’s usual shtick, you’re in luck—this is a Jim Carrey movie; you’ll probably enjoy it. But if you’re like me and Jim Carrey’s usual shtick makes you want to die, well, Batman Forever features Tommy Lee Jones and Jim Carrey doing Mr. Carrey’s usual shtick simultaneously, so Batman Forever will probably make you want to die twice.
That Guy With The Glasses (a.k.a. Doug Walker) takes on this movie with his riffing companions Brian Heinz and Rob Walker. Here’s a sample of the commentary, once again with the caveat that I am not familiar with their voices and thus cannot accurately tell you who says what: Regarding Gotham City’s new, ahem, “design”, “Vegas, only not as tasteful.” Regarding Two Face’s manic demeanor, “Put on a happy face! Or two!” Regarding Robin’s costume, “He looks like a gay ladybug.” There are plenty of quotable lines doing their darnedest to poke fun at a horrible, mockable film, but somehow the whole thing doesn’t quite gel into a cohesive experience. I think it might have to do with the zany tone Mr. Walker adopts throughout. Most riffers thrive on sardonic detachment with occasional lapses into madness. Still, I give the team at That Guy full marks for trying something new. “Zany” might even have worked on a grimmer film—say, Batman Begins—but Batman Forever is already reaching for “zany”, and it’s reaching much, much harder than they are. You just can’t beat Carrey at his own game, unless you’re Tommy Lee Jones.
*To clarify: by “right”, I mean “internally consistent”.
(1995, Action-Superhero, color)