Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Baby's First Batman

This is kinda cheating. But today’s post is actually ripped off from a little piece I wrote for The A.V. Club. The very nice editor Gwen Ihnat asked me to screen the 1960’s Batman movie for Elijah and Luca. The results are below, but if you want to see all the other writers’ stuff go here:


Baby’s First Batman

My sons are into superheroes, but not in the dangerously obsessive way of their father. And until recently, they had very little exposure to Batman aside from Legos. This was a parenting oversight that needed rectifying stat. Without Batman, how would they know how to behave if I was ever murdered?

The question of who should be their first cinematic Cape Crusader plagued me. Michael Keaton? Naw, too “Mr. Mom.” Val Kilmer? Too bloated. George Clooney? Too nippley. Christian Bale? What, do you want them to have nightmares?

I opted for the campy, hammy Adam West of the 1966 “Batman” movie. West may be derided by fans who want their Batman brooding and covered in synthetic muscles, but he’ll always be my dark knight. His ethics are clear and his Batmobile is the coolest. Besides, he’s responsible for one of the greatest Simpsons moments ever.

“Batman” was produced following the first season of the popular television series. It was written and directed in bright, cartoon style by two of the series regulars, Lorenzo Semple Jr and Leslie H. Martinson, who seemed intent on taking nothing seriously for its entire running time, which I loved. My sons were another story.

At first glance at the Blu-ray box, my sons declared it too old fashioned and refused to sit for the screening. But after a quick negotiation involving unlimited root beer, we were underway.

Following opening title cards soberly honoring both law enforcement and strangeness, my sons sat stone-faced as The Joker (Cesar Romero), Penguin (Burgess Meredith), Riddler (Frank Gorshin) and Catwoman (Lee Meriwether) bickered and cackled their way through lunatic plots to kill Batman and Robin (Burt Ward) and hold the United Nations-esc Security Council hostage.

They frowned at classic gags like Batman’s hyper convenient shark repellant, the impossible dehydrator gadget that turned people to colorful dust, and my personal favorite: Batman attempting to throw of an oversized Looney Tunes style bomb over a dock, only to be impeded by nuns, baby ducks and a marching band (“Some days you just can’t get rid of a bomb.”).

My boys openly disapproved of Lee Meriwether and Burgess Meredith smoking and covered their eyes during the 1960’s style sexuality (Bruce Wayne really wanted to screw Catwoman). They were particularly disturbed by Robin’s nude tights.

At one point I stopped the movie and said, “Guys. You do know this is supposed to be funny, right?” Out of pity for their old man, they laughed unconvincingly at the Riddler’s nonsensical riddles and the Cold War references throughout the rest of the film. I caught the same “Let’s just get through this, shall we?” look on Caesar Romero’s face when he had to deliver a particularly cringe-worthy line.

My sons ended the night play fighting each other in front of the TV, using the “Pow” and “Thwack” moves from the movie’s climax. I felt this was a major victory, but my younger son clarified, “Dad. I’m being Lego Batman. Not the one from your movie.”

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