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KILMER AT THE BAT

What can you say? Apparently, that's a hundred million dollars' worth of darting laser ray, jet-powered car and black rubber suit up there, and if the whole shebang goes in one eye and out the other before you even get back to the parking lot, that's too bad. They probably scorched you at the candy stand, too.

Batman Forever is the third installment of a franchise that has slipped steadily downhill since its inception, and the replacements of director Tim Burton by Falling Down's Joel Schumacher and star Michael Keaton by Val Kilmer haven't done anything to improve the product. Predictable summer fantasy is still predictable summer fantasy, even when you spend the federal budget on it.

Let's see. The bad guys are still the draw here: cackling Tommy Lee Jones (that's right, him again) as a good-and-evil split personality called Two Face, with makeup to match the moniker plastered on either side of his nose; and super-manic Jim Carrey, who's been poured into a green Lycra suit festooned with question marks for his cavort as The Riddler. The burning question should be: Aside from the money, why bother?

For the youth of America, of course. While watching Batman Forever, the kids will stuff themselves full of the co-sponsor's Big Macs (Congo tied up with Taco Bell) and doubtless think Kilmer is Kool. On the other hand, the man who played Jim Morrison and Doc Holliday with such startling verve is too good for this material. Luckily, he gets to spend half the time with his face covered. So does teen idol Chris O'Donnell, who belatedly introduces super sidekick Robin to the movie series, complete with wisecracking asides.

Plot? Do you really care? It's stock nonsense about uncovering the superhero's Bruce Wayne identity--mixed up with the romantic vacillation of a comic-strip shrink (Nicole Kidman) between Bruce and the rodent--and a disgruntled lab nerd named Edward Nygma (that's right: Enigma) who wants to manipulate every thought in Gotham City with some kind of brain-wave gizmo attached to your TV set. Thing looks like a Waring blender.

Throw in Tommy Lee's schizoid troublemaker and a zillion special effects, and you've probably got another summer blockbuster.

But Batman forever? Let's hope not.

 
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