The idea behind the Don’t Watch It, John! series is to find cinema that’s so rotten, so foul, so incredibly fetid that no other human being would dare recommend it to another human being. So why on earth would I watch this stuff? I like to think of myself much like Colonel Nathan Jessup in A Few Good Men. We live in a world that has horrible movies, and those horrible movies have to be kept from potential viewers. Who’s gonna do it? You? You have the luxury of not knowing what I know. That someone watching movies like Batman and Robin (1997), while tragic, probably saves lives. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives. You want me on that wall, you need me on that wall, protecting you from the cinematic horrors of the world. For this entry, it’s a re-watch of a film that I first saw in the late 90s. Iiiiice to seeee you again, Batman and Robin.
What is Batman and Robin?
The Netflix plot description:
Along with crime-fighting partner Robin (Chris O’Donnell) and new recruit Batgirl (Alicia Silverstone), Batman (George Clooney) battles the dual threat of frosty genius Mr. Freeze (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and homicidal horticulturalist Poison Ivy (Uma Thurman). Freeze plans to put Gotham City on ice, while Ivy tries to drive a wedge between the dynamic duo. With winking jokes and powerhouse action, Batman & Robin makes a great franchise addition.
Yeah, anyone “winking” at the jokes was most likely having a seizure. Mostly what I remembered from the first watch was that it was bad and it featured a ton of horrible ice puns from Arnold Schwarzenegger. Also, there were bat nipples on the bat suit. Bat nipples, for chrissakes!
Who stars in this cinematic monstrosity? It’s a Who’s Who of 1990s stars. George Clooney was fresh off of success on the TV series E.R. Uma Thurman was picking up huge paychecks after Pulp Fiction. Chris O’Donnell and Alicia Silverstone were thrown in to appeal to the under-25 crowd (which was me when I first saw it). And just for grins, there were some cameos, which I’ll touch on later.
The Stats: It has a 3.6 grade (out of 10) from IMDb users, which somehow keeps it safe from the notorious Bottom 100. More appropriately, Rotten Tomatoes has it at 12%. That’s still not as bad as most of the other movies in the “Don’t Watch It” series, but it’s certainly in the proper ballpark.
The Review: There is no other way to say this. Batman and Robin was a colossal hunk of shit. It all starts with the jaw-droppingly bad writing. The film is riddled with one miserable unfunny pun after another, and it’s not all from Schwarzenegger as Mr. Freeze. “Let’s kick some ice” is a real thing that was said. Especially ridiculous were the sexual puns- “I’ll help you grab your rocks”; “She has good stems”… “Good buds too”; “My garden needs tending”; “It IS the size of your gun that counts” (followed by Bane grunting “Guuuuuun”). The screenplay might as well have been written by a 12-year old boy in the throes of puberty.
The plot and plot development were equally awful. The film has no set-up. It begins with the dynamic duo standing in the Bat Cave, finding out about a heist from Mr. Freeze, and then their respective vehicles descend from the ceiling. That’s it. That’s how Joel Schumaker decided to begin his $100 million dollar film. Throughout, the guy that the damned film is named after- you know, Batman- is nothing more than a vessel to set up a lot of obnoxious product placements and help develop all of the other characters. And even those other characters weren’t developed well. Barbara (Alicia Silverstone) gets approximately 5 minutes of screen time before she suddenly figures out her Uncle Alfred’s password (“peg”, the dumbest password in the history of movie passwords) and then she becomes Batgirl. Robin is jealous of Batman and it’s a major plot mechanism, but it’s haphazardly thrown together. You could perform this exercise with every single character.
Along the way, there are a handful of cameos that give the film an absurdly dated quality. Elle McPherson is Bruce Wayne’s love interest for approximately 60 seconds of the film. Coolio makes an appearance. And Jesse Ventura shows up as a guard at Arkham Asylum. That means that Batman and Robin is one of the few films that starred as many future governors as Predator, but I digress.
There’s so much to laugh at in Batman and Robin for all the wrong reasons. It begins in the opening scene, when Robin’s bike descends and there’s a giant glowing “Robin” sign that keeps the bike in place. Does he forget who he is or something? Bane is nothing more than a grunting luchador with some neon green goo pumped into his skull. I had to laugh every time my closed captioning picked up his lines simply as “GRRRRR”. And the product placements were something you’d see spoofed in The Simpsons, not in a real movie. It’s a shame because both Clooney and Uma deserve so much better than having this on their resumé. Uma’s Mae West impersonation gets particularly old.
Seeing this film was bad enough in the 90s. Seeing it now, with the hindsight of three Christopher Nolan Batman films, makes it seem even worse. I can’t stress enough how bad this movie is. If you asked me for a short list of the worst movies ever made, Batman and Robin would be in there, probably in the top 10. It’s that epic in its shittiness. At least the Ed Wood films of the world have small budgets as an excuse.