Picks and Pans Review: Batman Forever
Despite some shortcomings, this second sequel is playful, original and lots of just plain fun.
Director Joel Schumacher does well by Kilmer, letting him use his inherent arrogance and commanding presence to create a convincingly charismatic Batman and Bruce Wayne. (Of course, unlike predecessor Michael Keaton, Kilmer isn't burdened by the expectation of comic behavior.) Kidman, too, appears to great advantage. As a shrink who hooks up with Batman to pursue Jones (as the patently schizophrenic, embittered ex-D.A. Two-Face), she is mostly required to look ravishing and be convincingly seductive. She succeeds roundly on both counts, despite wearing what looks like about a half-pound of crimson lipstick.
Faced with Carrey's Three Stooges overplaying, Jones, as the main villain, all but delivers a clinic in subtlety, as does English veteran Michael Gough, returning as the butler Alfred. He mainly helps the nicely cast O'Donnell, as the surviving member of a family aerial troupe Jones shot up in a circus, break into the act as Robin.
Drew Barrymore flaunts her natural sleaze as one of Jones's molls, and Ed Begley Jr. makes a memorable appearance as an officious manager at Wayne's factory. The screenplay, by Lee and Janet Scott Batchler and Akiva Goldsman, is refreshingly tasteful and often self-mockingly funny. At one point Kilmer and O'Donnell arrive on a man-made island, and O'Donnell exclaims, "Holy rusted metal!" When Kilmer reacts at what appears to be a reference to the old Batman TV series' catchphrase, O'Donnell makes it clear he was literally talking about holey corroded iron, not doing a "Holy!" joke.
But Schumacher, best known for such humorless thumb-suckers as Falling Down and The Lost Boys, is responsible for most of the movie's shortcomings. He allows his second-string villain, Carrey (as the Riddler), to slather comic mistiming and clumsy upstaging all over the place. And Schumacher shoots all the fight and chase scenes in such intense close-up that it's often impossible to tell what's going on.
Still, overall, it's a very entertaining movie. The title refers to Batman coming to terms with his role and resolving to continue his crime fighting. The appealing chemistry between Kilmer and the boyish but athletic O'Donnell suggests that life will continue to be chronicled onscreen. (PG-13)