RETURN TO THE BATCAVE
This wild, wooley and wacky look back at the evolution of the 1960's camp classic is a lighthearted romp through a lot of memories for fans of the series, as well as an interesting expose for those who were unaware of the true lives of the stars.
Hosted by the originals, Adam West and Burt Ward, their hunt for a missing Batmobile (George Barris' 1955 Ford Futura), is filled with rememberances of the lives of the dynamic duo in and out of their tights. The plot is peppered with actual Batlore, including Mickey Rooney's turning down the part of The Penguin, Lyle Waggoner's original screen test as the Dark Knight, et al.
Appearences by Frank Gorshin, Julie Newmar, Lee Meriweather help round out the cast that are superbly lead by West and Ward, taking a step backwards from ego and attitudes and goofing it up with the rest of the gang, with great impersonations of younger versions of West, Ward, Gorshin, Burgess Merideth, Meriweather, Vincent Price, Yvonne Craig and a Ceaser Romero Joker that will knock your socks off.
Adam West and Burt Ward and summoned to a showing of the original Batmobile. While they are there, the car is stolen.
The Adam West of the movie is a man demented. He called Jerry, his butler, `Alfred'. He opens a bust of Shakespeare in his apartment and reveals a hidden pole to slide down to the parking garage. He's obsessed with being a crime fighter, when in fact he's merely a washed up actor. When the Batmobile is stolen he not only believes it's his duty as a crime fighter to recover it, he drags and unwilling Burt Ward in as his assistant.
The pursuit is largely loquacious, with West and Ward reminiscing about the old days. It is broken by `flashbacks' with actors playing West and Ward in the old days. The modern scenes and the `flashbacks' both have the wacky lack of reality the show maintained. There are also running gags that show West is able to make fun of himself: in Ward's book about his time on the show, he spoke frankly about West's libido and also his being a skinflint (West makes Ward pay for everything in their pursuit, down to tips and bus fare). The clues they follow, the characters they meet (even in flashback) all fit the mentality of the old series, and there are several homages, including a fist fight with written sound effects.
The whole thing is extremely funny and done with great panache. There are also cameos by Julie Newmar (looking like she's had one facelift too many) and Frank Gorshin, reminding us why he has such a cult following. Gorshin will be the Riddler when Jim Carey, his obvious successor, is long forgotten. The movie builds to a fairly obvious but funny climax.
This show is a model for reunion shows – unfortunately, there are few that can fit the pattern. This show had actors replaying their old characters; young actors playing a movie about the making of the show; the actors West and Ward reminiscing; and a modern-day movie with the real Adam West playing the demented Adam West. It has everything. If you loved the old show, this is the stopper on the bottle.
By CYNTHIA LITTLETON
"KAPOW! BAM! THWAP! CBS is looking to stir up some Bat-nostalgia on Sunday with a cheeky, so-stupid-its funny telefilm about the making of ABC's 1966-68 "Batman" series, staring Adam West and Burt Ward."
By BILL ERVILINO
"Hilarious...RETURN TO THE BATCAVE should leave you howling. In the spirit of the series, it's campy, kooky, and a whole lot of fun."
"The stop action shots of Romero being transformed into the Joker are terrific... And speaking of makeup, this is one of the few movies about the 1960s in which the women actually LOOK as if they are from the 1960s."
By ROBERT BIANCO
"The good news for those who loved the'60s camp classic, with its comically stiff hero and its crooked-camera crooks, is that Return adequately captures the tone and appeal of the series."
“Jack Brewer and Jason Marsden hilariously playing the younger West and Ward."
By JOANNE OSTROW
"POW! - a clever, winking "Batman" reunion movie."
"Expect many bat-laughs."
By ANN HODGES
"'Marvelous! This is such a clever twist on reunion show."
"Like Batman itself, this is two layers of entertainment-the POW's and SMACK's for the young-uns, with plenty of double entendres for the rest. And this script is very skillful at letting West and Ward fill in their own 'whatever happened to' resumes, as well as weaving their more serious personal affairs amid the comedy without overwhelming the funny business."
"Return to the Batcave is fun in a smart new package of old times. Top that, all you creaky old reunion movies."
By HARRY KNOWLES
"They've actually turned the ol Bat-Theme into a full-fledged rapping song that frankly, I just love. The best superhero song in years!"
By JOHN LEONARD
"Certainly more fun than anything in the subsequent gloomy Hollywood movie version."
"There will be at least one egg-filled food fight, one remarkable Bat Rap (as in hip-hop), and one discussion about whether Batman and Robin are gay. We all deserve a break, and affable Adam provides it."
By KATE O'HARE
"The movie - every bit as campy and daffy as the 1966-68 ABC series."
By GLENN GARVIN
"An endearing couple hours of silliness that sends itself up without putting itself down."
"The best thing about Return to the Batcave is that it allows you to relive your '60s hallucinations without the muss and fuss of sugar cubes and bongs."
By ROB OWEN
"Fans of the 'Batman' series will appreciate director Paul A. Kaufman's adherence to the show's production design. And that's really what 'Return to the Batcave is all about: wallowing in nostalgia and getting just a whiff of the essence of the original show."
Return to the Batcave: The Misadventures of Adam and Burt (TV) (2003)
90 min. Artisan Entertainment. Cast: Burt Ward, Adam West, Julie Newmar, Frank Gorshin, Lee Meriwether.
In 1999, the ABC network aired Come On, Get Happy: The Partridge Family Story, which started a new trend of seriocomic docudramas telling tales off of set about old TV shows. 2000 saw Daydream Believers: The Monkees Story and Growing Up Brady (based on Barry "Greg Brady" Williams' book). Williams narrated and played his elder self in wraparound segments, a feat one-upped by Dawn Wells in 2001's Surviving Gilligan's Island: The Incredibly True Story of the Longest Three Hour Tour in History. Wells, who also co-executive produced the telepic, walked into recreations of the '60s series and interacted with the actress playing her.
The team behind the Gilligan's Island docudrama—Wells, writer Duane Poole, and director Paul A. Kaufman—reunited two years later to take on the legendary 1960s Batman series, and they would take the concept yet one step beyond, by fully merging the docudrama with the tried-and-true (but essentially out of vogue) "reunion movie." Instead of merely a gossipy behind-the-scenes movie or a "sit around and reminisce" special, CBS's Return to the Batcave: The Misadventures of Adam and Burt provided an alternative described in press-ready purple prose as a "reflexive, meta-level television reunion movie." (The telefilm aired on March 9, 2003 to low ratings. Historians will recall that the '60s series aired not on CBS but on ABC.)
"Batman" Adam West and "Robin" Burt Ward play more than faintly ridiculous versions of themselves in a plot that requires them to recall the best and worst of times of Batman. At West's fictional Los Angeles mansion, the 74-year-old actor camps it up with his butler Jerry (Curtis Armstrong of Moonlighting), who the supposedly addled West calls "Alfred." A mysterious invite to a car museum's charity gala prompts West to request "something Clooney-ish" to wear (an allusion to the most recent screen Batman at that time). At the museum, West bumps into Ward, and they witness the theft of Chuck Barris's famous 1966 Batmobile, a tricked-out Lincoln Futura. Though Ward demurs to a fan, "That was just a role I played," the movie cheerily blurs illusion and reality. "This is a job for actors!" blurts West, and the chase down memory lane is on.
The clues prompt flashbacks for West and Ward, played—in younger, fitter form—by Jack Brewer and Jason Marsden (The Munsters Today, Eerie, Indiana), both fine likenesses to the genuine articles. If the present day is colorfully surreal, with the tone of a kids' show, the past is detailed in its recreations of the sets, costumes, and personalities surrounding the Batman series (Brett Rickaby does a mean Frank Gorshin). The scenes cover the actors' pre-Batman career status, Batman screen tests, network issues, girl trouble, and the series' inevitable cancellation. Though accurately rendered in style, the past is suspect in its recounting of randy episodes mostly culled from Ward's 1995 memoir Boy Wonder: My Life in Tights.
West and Ward don't exactly come off as angels, since attention is paid to both men's divorces and resulting promiscuity (the real-life math doesn't appear to add up, in Ward's case). Then again, these guys have been dining out on their devil-may-care rep for years, and in many respects, the '60s episodes go out of their way to puff up West and Ward. Besides Brewer's lack of love handles, the script name-drops West's lovers (Marsden's Ward sputters, "All the women you date: Jill St. John, Raquel Welch, Natalie Wood, Leslie Ann Warren") and squeezes yuks from Ward's purportedly prodigious penis. West gets ribbed for scene-stealing, but he also takes Ward under his Bat-wing ("Fame is an aphrodisiac, my friend. Enjoy it while you can").
Though Ward's book spurs most of the flashbacks, the present-day West—credited as Executive Creative Consultant—gets to deliver most of the Bat-patter he's developed over the years in interviews, conventions, and his own 1994 memoir Back to the Batcave. It's all here: repeated references to the immortal line about "strange stirrings" in his utility belt, the explanation that the villains were always shot in dutch angles because "they're crooked!", and another spin on the dance floor to reprise the beloved Batusi (with Julie Newmar, no less).
The latter scene is a doozy that sums up the movie. Real-life West and Ward walk into a bar (it's a joke already), where a (barely) disguised Newmar, playing herself, dances with West in front of a video screen showing clips from the 1966 Batman movie, in which Lee Meriwether played Catwoman (they dance to "Batman Theme Remix," Neal hefti by way of J. Flexx). Then West and Ward fight henchmen—costumed in nickname-labeled shirts, as on the series—as the screen nostalgically fills with expletives: "WHAP!!... BIFF!... KA-POWWW!!" The scene, peppered with obvious shots of stuntmen, serves as a distinct reminder that Ward, unlike West, is terribly out-of-shape...um, as an actor.
The movie is purposefully self-referential to the nth degree, with gags involving a Batman-styled narrator (who turns out to be a truly unusual special guest star), corny segues ("Well, I guess that takes care of the 'Whatever happened to' business"), and loony running gags (West plays cheapskate, stiffing Ward with every bill). Lyle Waggoner's actual screen test for Batman shows up, Betty White makes a cameo in the style of the old series, Meriwether pops up in a diner scene, and Newmar joins the real Frank Gorshin in a totally unhinged finale. Fans of the series will be hooked, if not thoroughly delighted, and others may prove unable to resist the train-wreck spectacle. Return to the Batcave: The Misadventures of Adam and Burt is head-spinning camp: unabashedly cheesy but 100% mesmerizing.