As much fun as “Batman Forever” often is, it’s not terribly satisfying - it’s cinematic candy, empty calories, a moviepop.
The good news for parents is that, unlike the creepy “Batman Returns,” “Batman Forever” is not a moviepop that’s bad for you. Where the last film had the deviant sexuality of KrafftEbing, this one has the bland wholesomeness of Kraft macaroni and cheese. All the jokes are familyfriendly, all the comic book violence is bloodless, and the language? The script’s so clean you could eat off it.
“Batman Forever” looks sleek and gorgeous. Set in the New York City - sorry, Gotham - of the future, it borrows most of its design elements from the Art Deco 1930s. It’s still dark (Wayne Manor has about a million Tiffany lamps, none of which are turned on), but ‘Batman Forever’ has a highspirited, nothing-matters-and-whatif-it-did? tone that never lags.
That’s where the dissatisfying part comes in. Director Joel Schumacher keeps the pace breathless, but there’s no suspense and he fails to deliver on some tantalizing possibilities: The new Batmobile is definitely a tradedown, a Batyugo compared to the old wheels. It’s a kick to see Robin at last, but he and Batman don’t have much of a relationship. Even worse, “Batman Forever” supplies two villains, Two-Face and The Riddler, and then fails to tell us what they want.
The villains are, of course, the key to the “Batman” movies. This time, it’s a good news/bat news situation. Riddler Jim Carrey, Slim Fasted to about 1 percent body fat, is a gas gas gas. Prancing around like a flamingo vaudevillian, he tells Two Face, whose left half is magenta-colored and deformed because of an acid bath, “Very few people are both a summer and a winter, but you pull it off nicely, big boy.” Tommy Lee Jones is a disappointment as Two Face - his demonic supercriminal is cut from the same loaf as his other demonic characters.
It probably doesn’t matter much who plays Batman - you could stick Urkel in that rubber suit and he’d look hot. But Kilmer brings some wry self-doubt to Bruce Wayne, who still can’t decide if he wants to be a superhero. Kilmer’s especially good when Batman/Wayne embraces his inner bat: “I’m not Batman because I have to be. Now, I choose to be.”
Nicole Kidman is stunning as a career gal who gives Batman the heave-ho and Chris O’Donnell is fine as the rambunctious Boy Wonder, who has Luke Perry sideburns and Shannon Doherty attitude (in one scene, he boosts the Batmobile and goes for a joyride).
There are many delightful touches, including Two Face and The Riddler’s life-and-death game of Battleship and a Dr. Burton who shows up at the end. Wearing the same black fright wig and black clothes favored by Tim Burton, he’s an inside-joke tribute to the director of the first “Batman.” But riddle me this: Couldn’t all these clever people have come up with a planetary coup or a stash of emeralds or something juicy for Batman and his villains to fight about?
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: ‘Batman Forever’ Location: East Sprague, North Division and Coeur d’Alene cinemas Credits: Directed by Joel Schumacher, starring Val Kilmer, Jim Carrey, Tommy Lee Jones, Chris O’Donnell, Nicole Kidman Running time: 121 minutes Rating: PG-13