George Clooney, Chris O’Donnell, Uma Thurman, Arnold Schwarzenegger
Two green thumbs up for Poison Ivy, the deliriously wicked horticultural zealot played with gawky panache by Thurman in Batman & Robin, the fourth Caped Crusader film in this latest series. In Batman movies it’s the villains who always gleam brightest, and this latest offering, again directed by Joel Schumacher (Batman Forever), runs true to form. As a mad scientist intent on breeding plants capable of taking over the world, Thurman has all the best lines. “There’s something about an anatomically correct rubber suit,” she coos huskily upon spotting Batman (Clooney) in his hunky duds, “that puts fire in a girl’s lips.”
Thurman aside, B&R is about what you’ve come to expect: loud, frenzied, brawling and fixated on sleek, shiny, high-tech vehicles and gadgetry. Anyone seeking character development deeper than a Necco wafer, wit more sophisticated than Mr. Freeze (Schwarzenegger, bald and resembling a giant tube of glitter in his silver-blue body paint) announcing, “The Iceman cometh,” or a plot more challenging than bad guys trying to take over Gotham City and destroy the Dynamic Duo (O’Donnell is Robin), has come to the wrong movie. But then, you already knew that.
What you possibly didn’t know is how easily Clooney slips into Batman’s glossy rubber boots. There’s nothing showy about his performance, but he exudes a comfort level with the role markedly higher than that of predecessors Michael Keaton and Val Kilmer. O’Donnell is annoyingly petulant this time out, while Alicia Silver-stone makes for a teenybopperish Bat-girl. Doing little more than adding visual grace notes in small roles are Elle Macpherson, Vivica A. Fox and model Vendela Thommessen. Film buffs: Watch for fleeting homages to Blonde Venus, Citizen Kane and A Clockwork Orange. (PG-13)