In Brief: Then there’s the colon that follows the title: The Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn. Sadly, it’s not fantabulous. Not even close.
The official title is Birds of Prey: And the Fantbulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn. The title is supposed to laugh. Or at least smile. I did neither. The title is as bloated and as all over the place as the movie.
And it’s way far from fantabulous.
Margot Robbie is Harley Quinn. We met her in Suicide Squad in 2016. The movie was deadly dull. Robbie’s Quinn was a supporting character. She stole the movie and was so much fun that it earned the character her own movie.
Quinn is Joker’s girlfriend. The plot has her breaking up with him and getting on the bad side of gangster Roman Sionis. He’s done by Ewan McGregor. Sionis wants a diamond picked from an associate’s pocket by a pickpocket. Quinn is forced to get it from her. And there are corrupt cops and an assassin who kills mobsters.
Other than the cop played by Rosie Perez, everyone in the movie is a bad guy.
Here’s the problem. Quinn is a one-note character. She’s the kind of personality that adds flavor to a movie. A punch line here or there makes a movie like “Suicide Squad” interesting. Put that type of character in a whole movie, make her the focus and in 10-minutes you’re tired of the schtick.
Robbie is as bad in this movie as she was good in Suicide Squad. However, this is not Robbie’s fault. She’s the perfect Harley Quinn and has a blast with the character. Robbie has mastered the giggly little girl persona and tosses her lines off with reckless abandon.
Fun stuff here and there. But a whole movie of it? Nah.
Blame the awful writing of Christina Hodson. She penned the much-loved Transformers flick Bumblebee. It was clever and sweet. Nothing in Birds of Prey is sweet and it’s overly clever. Then director Cathy Yan (Dead Pigs) takes the overly clever writing, overdoes it and pounds it — and us — to a pulp.
Yan must have watched — and liked — too many of the episodes of the old Batman TV series with Adam West and Burt Ward. It’s that style of moviemaking on steroids. Crafty and slick for a few minutes then it wears you down to the point where you’re practically screaming, “Enough already.”
Birds of Prey preys on those who loved Robbie’s acting in Suicide Squad. Fans will think they’re going to be treated to something as fun or even more fun. They will be disappointed and will quickly learn that Birds of Prey — to use a bad cliche in a movie full of them — is for the birds.
Director: Cathy Yan
Stars: Margot Robbie, Rosie Perez, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, June Smollett-Bell, Ewan McGregor, Ella Jay Basco, Chris Messina
Margot Robbie had us all howling with this character in Suicide Squad and was the only actor in the movie having any fun. In Birds of Prey she’s as bad as she was good in that film. Birds of Prey is for the birds and gets a 1 on the Friday Flicks with Gary 0 to 5 scale.
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Gary Wolcott has been reviewing movies on radio, television and newspaper since 1990. He believes — and this is an estimate only — that he’s seen something close to 10,000 movies in his lifetime. Gary is a lifelong fan of films and catches a couple of hundred movies a year. He believes movies ought to be seen on the big screen and not on the small screen in your living room or family room. While he loves movies, he also says reviewing film can be a real sacrifice and that he sees many movies so you don’t have to.
He is one of KXL 101.1 FM’s film critics and joined the news staff in 2014. Gary is also the film critic for Tri-Cities, Washington’s Tri-City Herald.