A certain percentage of the fanboy population has dismissed Cartoon Network’s “Batman: The Brave and the Bold” as a too-cartoony take on the Dark Knight Detective’s adventures. Haters may be eating their words after this weekend, however, when the show gets a healthy injection of awesome in the form of Neil Patrick Harris.
Harris, hot off the tune-filled “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog” and a much-praised hosting gig at the Tony Awards, headlines this Friday’s episode as the zoot-suited villain Music Meister. This bad belter’s super power is the ability to exert hypnotic control over people with his voice, creating an entire army of singing, dancing, finger-snapping slaves. Yup, you heard right: “The Brave and the Bold” is going musical.
OK, so “Mayhem of the Music Meister” isn’t gonna convince anyone that “The Brave and the Bold” is any less goofy than it already is. But the episode solidly reinforces the anarchic, “Animaniacs”-esque sense of humor that “TB&TB” has gone out of its way to establish. No, this isn’t The Dark Knight. No, it’s not even Bruce Timm’s retro-tastic take from the original “Batman: The Animated Series.” This has more to do with the chaotic, comedic, guest-star-heavy Adam West TV series from the ’60s. And there’s nothing wrong with that. In the early ’60s, Batman went through a particularly nonsensical period in the comics, and it’s just as valid a take on the character as Frank Miller’s gritty, ultraviolent The Dark Knight Returns from the ’80s.
So if you’re willing to cut Batman a little slack and appreciate him in his various incarnations, then “Mayhem of the Music Meister” is a must-see. The songs are catchy and filled with clever lyrics. (Extra points for dropping a reference to “The Batusi.”) The image of Gorilla Grodd, Black Manta and Clock King harmonizing alongside Green Arrow, Aquaman and Black Canary is pretty damn priceless. The full-fledged Arkham Asylum production number is a showstopper, and a romantic ballad courtesy of Black Canary (longtime voice actress Grey DeLisle) is pitch-perfect Broadway spoofery. On top of it all, Harris has got a hell of a set of pipes on him. If you dig it, the soundtrack is available on iTunes and Amazon. I’m not gonna say it’s so good you should rush home and download a copy, but it will increase your Q-rating among geekdom’s nerdiest sectors.
So tune in to “Batman: The Brave and The Bold” and give “Mayhem of the Music Meister” a listen. It’s funny, original, toe-tappingly tuneful and still less gay than Batman & Robin.