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'Return to the Batcave' campy, nostalgic fun

Sunday, March 09, 2003

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor

In the spirit of "Surviving Gilligan's Island" and "Growing Up Brady," CBS's "Return to the Batcave: The Misadventures of Adam and Burt" is an entertaining, nostalgic romp regardless of the movie's bad acting, writing and, in a rare instance, taste.


"Return to the Batcave: The Misadventures of Adam and Burt"

When: 9 tonight on CBS.

Starring: Adam West, Burt Ward.

The TV movie's appeal will be limited to fans of the campy '60s "Batman" series, who, by their interest in the original, will naturally forgive this movie's shortcomings.

In this so-called "comedy adventure," Adam West and Burt Ward play themselves, or at least versions of themselves envisioned by fans who inextricably link an actor and character.

West played Batman/Bruce Wayne and Ward played Robin/Dick Grayson in "Batman," which aired on ABC from 1966-1968.

As "Return to the Batcave" begins, West is in his home, calling for his butler.

"I'm not Alfred, Mr. West, it's Jerry," the butler complains after West gets it wrong. "Alfred was the guy on the TV show."

West, bumbling more than The Tick, then slides down the Bat-pole in his closet to get to his garage and head out to a fund-raiser. "Charity doesn't punch a clock, my friend."

At the event, he's reunited with portly "old chum" Ward and the Batmobile, which is promptly stolen from under their noses. They spend the rest of the film trying to get it back while flashing back to their days making the TV show in which younger actors play the dynamic duo.

Young Adam (Jack Brewster, who looks and sounds like Peter Krause from "Six Feet Under") is a divorced dad with more acting experience than young Burt (Jason Marsden), who was hired for his martial arts and tumbling skills.

Burt injures himself continuously when production on "Batman" begins, and then the Catholic Legion of Decency worries about how his tight tights highlight, um, part of his nether regions.

The pair get into a few spats - Burt accuses Adam of talking slowly to gain more screen time; they insist on arriving on the set at the exact same moment - and Burt's new fame leads to a divorce (Amy Acker, Fred on The WB's "Angel," plays his wife).

At a press conference in January in Hollywood, West said he resisted prior attempts to take a Bat-trip down Bat-memory lane.

"I've never wanted to be perceived as a member of the over-the-hill gang," West said. "I've always been very lucky in that I've been able to keep working, whether it's voice-overs, animation, whatever. But ['Batman' has] been good to us, really. If you could make an agreement with a signature role and not become embittered or feel that you're painted into a corner, it could be a wonderful thing."

Ward, who had just turned 20 when he began work on the series, said the show's cliff-hanger endings made it a hit.

"The fact that you got your audience there to watch and you don't end it and you purposefully leave everybody hanging to suffer a little bit for a couple of days until it's answered," Ward said. "It was a tremendous marketing ploy."

Back in the movie's fictitious present, West and Ward encounter some of their old co-stars - Julie Newmar and Lee Merriwether (both played Cat Woman), Frank Gorshin (The Riddler) - and get into a barroom brawl complete with Boof! Whap! Biff! and Ka-Pow! on-screen graphics.

Fans of the "Batman" series will appreciate director Paul A. Kaufman's adherence to the show's production design. From sets to camera angles to the opening titles, the makers of this film clearly have a love and appreciation for the original series.

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.

And that scent? Pure Limburger.

You can reach Rob Owen at 412-263-2582 orrowen@post-gazette.com . Post questions or comments to www.post-gazette.com/tv under TV Forum.

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