Batman: The Animated Series – “I’ve Got Batman In My Basement”

I’ve Got Batman In My Basement

Be-fowled by a couple of fledglings!

Air Date: 30/09/92

Director: Frank Paur

Writer: Sam Graham and Chris Hubbell

Themes: Birds, Humour, Playing Detective

Villain: Oswald Cobblepot/The Penguin

Synopsis: Two children must protect Batman from the Penguin when he is incapacitated by Cobblepot.

Review:

Oh boy.

“I’ve Got Batman…” is an episode that is not designed for me, or for the more hardcore fan of the caped crusader. Those looking for pretty artwork, noir themes or excellent villains should also look away. This is animation, so kids are always going to be one of the main target audiences. I find you don’t have to talk down to kids too much; they’ll enjoy serious stuff like the last few episodes as long as it isn’t boring. But they also like a bit of slapstick, a bit of humour, and that is what “I’ve Got Batman…” has, from its opening title to end credits. As such, a serious review of it is a bit of a loser from the off, but I’ll give it a go anyway.

Production wise, this is our introduction to the Penguin character. Penguin’s a rather odd villain, one who may have gained more attraction in the last 20 years after Danny DeVito’s rather memorable portrayal of him in Batman Returns, though Burgess Meredith in the 60’s was also well-regarded. In truth, he’s probably a bit too comical to reach the ranks of better Batman bad guys. His appearance, his obsession with birds, his choice of umbrellas as a weapon, his lack of real physical threat to Batman, it all adds up. Penguin strikes me as being a rather poor example of a Batman villain, which might explain his reduced usage in the comics of recent years.

B:TAS feeds into that with this introduction, where the Penguin, despite being shown as a somewhat credible threat to the main character, gets bested by a bunch of kids playing detective. Penguin here is a comic effect villain, someone to get humiliated and undone by those he considers far below him.

We open with a generic heist, as Penguin’s goons go after a fancy piece of jewellery. This bit is your fairly standard caper scene, with Batman getting his dramatic introduction and the goons being rather dim-witted. After dealing with said goons in typically easy fashion, Batman gets a nasty shock when an actual vulture has a go at him. That at least was an unexpected ending to the scene, adding a bit of a kick to proceedings, though the attempt to manufacture some mystery with the birdseed “clue” fell well short of expectations. Who else is it going to be?

From there it’s onto the kids. Being honest, I find this kind of story insufferable, and have felt the same as far back as I can remember. This kind of thing never appealed to me even when I was young. The characters are straight out of the stereotype manual and poorly VA’d. Sherman is the lonely nerdy kid, with a single mom he rarely see’s and a female best friend so you can add in some gender equality and the most PG of romantic options. Sherman is an outsider: few friends, an obsessive hobby, glasses, weak frame, etc, etc, you’ve seen this all before.

It’s the kids who are going to be our main characters, doing things no kids should be able to do, like break into a warehouse, drive the Batmobile around and fight villains- and win. It doesn’t help that they just have a stink of placeholder about them. I suppose they try and draw a line between Batman and Sherman in terms of Sherman’s interest in detective work, but even that doesn’t really work.

So, the kids follow the vulture for some reason and happen upon Penguin and his goons, standing around in a warehouse. They happen to witness Batman’s interjection, and rapidly hinder him in the process. In so doing the kids aren’t exactly endearing themselves to me, though their actions or through the way they seem to stumble in on a much more interesting plot. Batman, without a shred of hesitation, saves the kids from their own stupidity. Sherman and Roberta, aside from being poor characters, are just a nuisance at this stage.

Anyway, Penguin manages to incapacitate Batman, bringing us to the main point. The two kids have to haul ass away from the warehouse, bringing the comatose Batman with them. The “wacky” scene where they pilot the Batmobile around is vaguely entertaining I suppose, but is so OTT and unbelievable as to be dismissed by an adult audience.

The rest of the episode is this siege of Sherman’s basement, as he brings the local bullies in line, and tries to get Batman to wake up and save them. The whole thing is extraordinarily weak at this stage, as Sherman tries to get Batman some antidote while setting up traps to slow down Penguin and company. Penguin seems a little menacing here, but he’s fighting kids for God’s sake. This is in-between more “comedy” with the bullies trying to drive the Batmobile and getting their asses handed to them by the vulture, so I already kind of want this episode to end.

So, the final fight. Penguin and the goon squad get slowed up plenty by the kids and their amateurish weapons, wrecking the place and creating the sort of hi-jinks that appeal to our inner six year old. At least the Penguin actually wins through in the end and seems to be posing a major threat to Batman.

Until Batman instantly recovers and wipes the floor with all three of them. A clumsy final fight scene is our reward for making it through the dross of the previous 17 minutes or so, as the real hero saves the day, coming full circle from the abandoned plot line that the kids interrupted in the warehouse.

All that’s left is for the cringeworthiness to see us out, as Batman gets to meet the shocked mother, Sherman someone ends up setting up his own detective agency which includes ordering the bullies around for some reason and Batman takes the time to peer at the kids through their basement window which isn’t creepy at all. It’s childish. It’s for children. Moving on.

Tidbits/Quotes:

-“The script came in and it was terrible. Normally, I tell the director to do what he can to make it interesting, and nobody could figure out a way to make it interesting. The storyboard artists didn’t care, and it shows”. That’s Bruce Timm giving a honest assessment of this episode.

-Director Frank Paur also did “Be A Clown” which included a lot about kids, but in a much more intelligent fashion.

-Right from the off you have the xylophone theme and you know what you are getting yourself in for.

-“All it took was five minutes!” “And that will get you five years!” Awful line from our hero.

-Those are some stereotype characters, those older kids. The turned up collar, the sneer, the faux politeness to parents. You can only shake your head.

-I did like the vulture that Penguin uses. Those are surprising vicious animals after all, so it works as a threat.

-It’s a fairly classic design for the Penguin, meant to look comical in his roundness, the nose and mis-sized eyes while still retaining a sense of menace. They don’t go quite as far with the grotesque as Tim Burton did in Batman Returns though. Him dressing and acting like someone of a higher class is a good way for the Penguin to be portrayed. Sort of like Badger in Firefly I guess – “Petty thief with delusions of standing. A sad little King of a sad little hill”.

-Penguins VA, in the form of Paul Williams, is what makes him of course. Williams pulls off that posh twang really well, just like a man who is putting on the high class act with the forced fancy dialogue. As for the kids, well, not so much. Denise Marco, as Roberta, sounds very much like someone reading an autocue.

-Speaking of design though, I hope I wasn’t the only one a little disconcerted by the Roberta character, who despite her (inferred I suppose) young age has a bit of a chest. I think the long hair and voice would be enough to give us a hint as to gender guys,

-A horrible animation error in the warehouse, as Sherman clearly hits the “Off” button of the conveyer which somehow springs to life.

-The comedy stuff with the car is woeful, even for kids entertainment.

-That being said, some of the stuff Sherman reveals with his button pushing seems rather, well, lethal for Batman. Missiles? Really?

-That shot of Penguin and his goons wailing ineffectually on the Batmobile got a laugh out of me, but not for the reasons the creators intended I’m sure. It’s the same way I’d laugh at someone repeatedly running into a brick wall.

-Love that Joker “Wanted” poster in Sherman’s basement. Nice bit of universe padding there.

-Penguin’s vulture is not only a vicious enemy, it has the uncanny ability to chew through electrical wires without getting a shock.

-The last five minutes, with the break-in and traps, is straight out of Home Alone. It just so happens that Home Alone 2 came out around the same time as this episode. What a surprise…

-I’ve noted in previous reviews how the fight animation is sometimes rather stunted and badly done. “I’ve Got Batman…” might be the worst so far in the last minute as Batman and Penguin wheel clumsily around the other.

-It’s a ridiculously lame headline that covers the equally lame ending – “Pint Sized Pinkertons Pluck Penguin” and it pretty much sums up why most people over the age of 11 won’t enjoy this episode.

Overall, a shocking episode by my own standards, but clearly not intended for my demographic.

To see the rest of the entries in this series, click here to go to the index.

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3 Responses to Batman: The Animated Series – “I’ve Got Batman In My Basement”

  1. Pingback: Batman: The Animated Series – Index | Never Felt Better

  2. Pingback: Batman: The Animated Series – Heart Of Ice | Never Felt Better

  3. Pingback: Batman: The Animated Series – See No Evil | Never Felt Better

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