“Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders” started with Dick Grayson doing ballet as Bruce Wayne watches a TV variety show. The fearsome four, Joker, Catwoman, Riddler and Penguin, attack the show and leave a clue for Batman. They meet Commissioner Gordon and discuss the clue. After deducting the next attack, they go off to fight the villainous Squad. The bad guys get away but leave another clue. Catwoman devises a plan to turn Batman bad at the frozen food factory. Batman and Robin show up and fight the boys. Catwoman flirts with Batman so she could spray him and Robin with knock out gas. The serum didn’t work on Batman so they load him and Robin on an oversized pan on a conveyor belt. Batman uses the lemon pudding to burn through the ropes and he swings them away. Aunt Harriet almost uncovered their secret, so Bruce let’s Alfred go. Bruce slowly starts being a dick… to Dick. After a citywide manhunt, they figure out that their dastardly foes went out into space in a Belgravia space mission. The dynamic duo race off in the bat rocket to the top-secret space station where the boys try to attack Catwoman for her softness for Batman and throw her out an airlock. Batman saves her and the trio go after the Villains. They tell Batman they decide to create two more Earths so they each have a Gotham City to rule. Batman says he wants to throw them out of the airlock. They have an antigravity fight before Batman can turn it off. Batman brutalizes the evil three before Catwoman escapes. Batman disappears from the police station, leaving Robin to bicycle home. Bruce shouts at Aunt Harriet and kicks out Dick.

A crime wave occurs as Bruce seemingly gives up his heroic antics. Batman goes to the police station and relieves the Commissioner, Chief of Police, Mayor, Judge and more and then duplicates himself with the duplication ray. Robin looks for Catwoman to cure Batman from his dictatorial ways. They get into the cat mobile and head to the bat cave. Batman finds them there and Catwoman gives him the antidote, but Batman took a bat-anti-antidote. After a duel of the utility belts, Batman lowers Robin and Catwoman into a nuclear silo. Fortunately, Robin sprayed them with Bat Isotope Spray. They release all of Batman’s villains from prison, except Joker, Riddler and Penguin. They turned to dust.  Batman straps explosives to every home’s antenna as Robin, Catwoman and the Villains stop Batman and his duplicates. After Alfred saved him with a stronger antidote, Batman realizes that Joker, Riddler and Penguin set him up to rob a museum. Batman, Robin and Catwoman go after the trio. They escape in a blimp. There’s a fight on top of the blimp and the bad guys fall to the ground. Catwoman tries to get away with all the museum pieces. Instead of going back to jail. She falls into a smoke stack. Presumed dead, Batman grieves. Afterwards, they throw aunt Harriet a birthday party to get her off their scent.

I enjoyed all the inside jokes, like Batman and Catwoman going off to France to drink coffee or Batman gradually turning into a darker character. If you are a fan of Batman, you’ll love this film. It has so many references to not only the Batman series, like seeing three different catwomen, but also to the Burton films, “You wanna get nuts. Come on, let’s get nuts.” I loved the Batman/Catwoman relationship. I can’t remember how much of it was explored in the series, so that might be a more modern twist. Also, the bend to Batman becoming an authoritarian like figure is sort of a progression of how dark the character can go. I think having Robin and Catwoman try to bring him back to the lighter side seems like a call of arms, so to speak, against the dark and Broody Batman we’ve gotten in the comics and films. This very much felt like a parody and celebration of the character and the show. They played on the ridiculousness of some of the gadgets and how the characters behaved, like Aunt Harriet and Commissioner Gordon.

Overall, this was a well written film and expertly directed. Most people would put up their nose at an animated film, but I strongly urge you to reconsider that position. This not only encapsulates the feel and fun of the 1966 Batman TV series, but it also parodies the evolution of Batman since and what could, unfortunately, become the future for the former caped crusader turned Dark Knight. That’s why I believe the title “Return of the Caped Crusader” is so fantastic. The filmmakers want to make a point that Batman, along with Bruce Wayne, doesn’t have to be this dark and brooding character he’s become in the comics and, more to the point, in live action films. I would not only say that this is the best theatrically released (It was limitedly released) Batman film to come out this year, but also in the last 23 years when “Batman: Mask of the Phantasm” was released in theaters. I try not to speak or write with hyperbole. I was just so happy to see a Batman film that not only took itself seriously, but also could make fun of what has become of the character. I would score this at a 95%.

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