- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 13, 2020

The latest live-action adventure of the Joker’s favorite gal made movie critics happy earlier this year and hopes to charm superhero-loving, home theater viewers in the exhaustedly titled Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, Rated R, 2.39:1 aspect ratio, 109 minutes, $44.95).

Director Cathy Yan takes a Tex Avery approach to DC Comics’ universe revealing the evolution of Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) after she breaks up with the Clown Prince of Crime.

She first finds a new best friend (a pet hyena named Bruce), takes up roller derby, tries to enjoy Sal’s famous egg, bacon and cheese sandwich and then find herself a target of every criminal ever abused by the Joker including narcissistic crime lord Roman Sionsis (Ewan McGregor) aka Black Mask.

Just as Roman is about to kill her, she talks him into allowing her to find a large, code-infused diamond stolen by a young thief Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco) who decides to swallow it.

Harley’s task gets more complicated by other competitors looking for either the hot rock or revenge, and she eventually gets help from new allies including Gotham City Police Detective Rene Montoya (Rosie Perez), Helena Bertinelli (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) aka the Huntress and Dinah Lance (Jurnee Smollett-Bell) aka Black Canary.

The hardcore, sometimes brutally violent action includes a vehicle chase on roller skates, lots of graphic bone breaking during close-quarters combat and Harley’s assault on a police station with a gun shooting beanbag and glitter bullets. While certainly entertaining to watch, the movie’s tired script has a hard time fully using the stable of comic book legends and simply provides a vehicle for Miss Robbie to shine.

Specifically, just as Robert Downey Jr. is Tony Stark, Margot Robbie has embraced and become Harleen Quinzel.

The actress’ portrayal of the colorfully violent anarchist, plucked right from cartoons and comic books, is once again delivered to perfection and the main reason to appreciate this comedy-enriched action film.

Best extras: Viewers will appreciate rewatching the movie with a Bird’s Eye View presentation that offers a multimedia companion consisting of sequential art style panels that pop in and rearrange on the screen as the film plays.

Panels that appear contain a variety of content such as video commentary by the director, behind-the-scenes footage, comic book art that inspired scenes, interviews with cast and crew on the set, and text trivia nuggets.

For example, viewers will learn nuggets such as the character Harley Quinn first appeared in 1992 in an episode of “Batman: The Animated Series” or the moment Roman wears his famed black mask inspired by the comic book “Batman: Under the Hood” (No. 1).

Also, the presentation introduces characters in multipanel displays that might show an interview with Mr. McGregor next to comic book art of the Black Mask and a panel of behind-the-scenes action that almost completely covers the screen filled in with an animated, textured glittery background.

Overall, it’s a visual smorgasbord of informative insight in the film and a welcomed extra that proves the Blu-ray format can still offer an extended and fun experience.

Next, viewers can watch six featurettes about the movie offering a total of roughly 40 minutes of too-gratuitous, back patting by the cast and crew with the phrase “empowering women” liberally applied.

Segments cover costume design, Miss Robbie returning as Harley Quinn (previously seen in the film “Suicide Squad”), visual effects, Ewan McGregor as Roman Sionsis and production design.

Best of the bunch is an almost 5-minute featurette on Harley as part of Roller Derby team with footage of Miss Robbie skate training.

However, among the entire segments, only rarely is the comic book or cartoon source material of Harley and Birds of Prey mentioned which is certainly a disservice to fans hoping to learn more about the characters.

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