Where the anime style Gotham Knight is Batman for a new generation, Return to the Batcave is for old school batfans. This 2003 TV movie stars Adam West and Burt Ward—that’s the original TV Batman and Robin for those born after 1970—as actors who are called in to relive their legendary pasts as the Caped Crusader and Boy Wonder as they try and get to the bottom of the missing Batmobile mystery.
Interspersed with the campy Batmobile story are flashbacks to the heyday of the Batman series when West and Ward were two of television’s most popular stars. Portrayed by Jack Brewster and Jason Marsden the flashbacks hit all the high points of the Dynamic Duo’s history with the show; how Ward’s tights were singled out by the Catholic Legion of Decency as being too revealing for TV; how the pressure of the show caused a rift not only between the actors but also broke up Ward’s marriage; how Cesar Romero refused to shave off his moustache to play the Joker and Burgess Meredith was the second choice as the Penguin after Mickey Rooney who turned the part down.
Back to the Batcave is to The Dark Knight what Dumb and Dumber is to Citizen Kane. It’s everything the Christopher Nolan movies aren’t. It’s silly and just as campy as the 1960s series it pays tribute to. From the Batusi dance to the crazy camera angles, the awful puns and guest appearances from original villains Lee Merriwether, Julie Newmar and Riddler Frank Gorshin in supporting roles it captures the anarchic spirit of the original show and has a nice nostalgic ring.
West and Ward both hand in fun, kitschy performances, nicely echoing their campy work on the television show and while fans of the new darker Batman movies and cartoons may not understand the kitsch appeal of Return to the Batcave, the silly fun of the movie makes it essential viewing for all baby boomer Batfans.