A charming animated love letter to the classic 1960s Adam West-starring Batman TV series, Return of the Caped Crusaders feels like something of an apology from Warner Bros. Animation for their hugely disappointing The Killing Joke adaptation this past summer. Affably lightweight and tonally perfect, it’s an easy sell to fans of the source material.
When The Joker, The Penguin, The Riddler, and Catwoman (Julie Newmar) launch their latest scheme to bend Gotham City to their will, it’s up to Batman (West) and Robin (Burt Ward) to save the day, of course. You don’t really need a plot synopsis for the movie; it’s a regular Batman episode extended out to feature length and delivers largely everything you’d expect from that.
While the plot may indeed be the most forgettable thing about Return of the Caped Crusaders – just as it was in the TV episodes – the sheer charming personality and strict adherence to the feel of the original series is what really makes this snappy jaunt sing.
Though Ward and Newmar in particular sound much older some five decades on – it’s a bit of a stretch to believe Ward as the “Boy Wonder” in 2016 – the nostalgic appeal speaks for itself. Even so, Michael Jelenic and James Tucker’s script refuses to rest on its laurels, carving out a hilariously self-aware caper romp that fits perfectly into the 1960s Batman canon.
The only notable affectations that differ from the original run, in fact, are the abundance of nods to more recent Batman movies (there’s a hilariously mockery of The Dark Knight Rises near the end), and of course, the greater visual elaboration that the animated medium allows, perfectly suited to the cartoonish, heightened tone the 60s series shot for.
While it’s admittedly light-footed to the point of near-inconsequence, some of the older voices are a little rough, the impersonations of deceased actors are totally all over the place and the plot takes a loopy, potentially divisive turn after act one, Return of the Caped Crusaders nevertheless proves that West in particular still has it. Hopefully Warner Bros. will quickly green-light more movies in this vein while these pop-culture treasures remain among us.
Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders is available now on VOD