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Movie Review

A drama teacher once cautioned her class of aspiring young actresses, "Beauty will get you by for about twenty seconds; after that, you have to do something with it." Someone should have issued a similar warning to the makers of Batman & Robin, a flashy sequel full of visual panache that fails to deliver a satisfying story or engaging players. Great art direction. Impressive sets. Wild special effects. However, the plot and characters are thinner than the pages of most comic books.

This fourth installment of the Batman series finds the dynamic duo—plus Batgirl—battling an immodestly clad seductress named Poison Ivy, the menacing Mr. Freeze (who turns people into human popsicles) and Bane, a chemically enhanced serial killer who looks like professional wrestling's worst nightmare. Non-stop violence (mostly hand-to-hand combat) is relatively bloodless. The worst beating is taken by viewers assaulted by a barrage of cloying, cliche-riddled one-liners occasionally interrupted by a mild profanity. Parents should also know that Poison Ivy uses sexual innuendo as she casts an amorous spell on her intended victims.

There are positive messages in the movie. Robin's struggle to resist Ivy's feminine wiles opens the door for a discussion of sexual temptation, pride and spiritual blindness. A subplot in which Alfred, the faithful tender of the Batcave, is dying from a rare disease yields wise counsel about the need to trust others, defend what's right and make family a priority. But these elements are upstaged by absurd action and ridiculous dialogue, not to mention a gothic backdrop infinitely more interesting than anything happening in the foreground. Not deeply offensive, but relatively empty.

After a huge opening weekend, Batman & Robin's box-office take dropped 63 percent, proving that even the caped crusaders can't outfly bad word of mouth. The perfect excuse for teens to read a good book.

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