BIRDS OF PREY (AND THE FANTABULOUS EMANCIPATION OF ONE HARLEY QUINN)
Genre: Superhero Action
Running Time: 109 mins.
Where Can You See It?: In theaters now
Premise: After breaking up with Joker, Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) asserts her independence and tries to fend off every bad guy in town, particularly Roman Sionis (Ewan McGregor). Along the way, she teams up with three other female renegades and befriends a klepto kid.
Behind-the-Scenes: Even though 2016's Suicide Squad made a ton of money, it was critically reviled and met with large audience indifference, so Warner Bros. was smart not to try to do a sequel. One of the few bright spots in that film was Robbie's Harley Quinn, so this spin-off makes sense. Robbie's on board here as a producer, leaning into the property's feminine sensibilities and bringing in Cathy Yan to direct and a ton of other female crew members. Warner Bros. wanted a PG-13 rating, but Robbie fought for an R-rating (which may have ultimately hurt its opening weekend box office).
The Good: This is a fun and stylish superhero film that never takes itself too seriously. It's bright and colorful, and Yan stages some terrific action sequences. Though relatively untested on the feature front, I think this proves that Yan has a bright future ahead of her. The script takes a page right out of the Deadpool playbook with Harley Quinn providing near-constant voiceover and frequently breaking the fourth wall. McGregor is having a blast as the villainous Roman - he's very funny but also knows when to ratchet up the intensity. Robbie effortlessly exudes star power and makes Harley Quinn a compelling character, but...
The Bad: A little bit of Harley Quinn goes a long way. Like Deadpool and other motor-mouthed characters, she's often annoying, especially when the jokes aren't up to snuff. The movie runs out of narrative steam in the last third, and I wish it had spent more time developing the Birds of Prey team and letting them play off each other. Instead, it just sort of throws them together at the end with forced, rather than earned, chemistry.
Should You See It?: Sure, if this is your thing. It's certainly entertaining, and I think we can all agree that it smartly left Jared Leto's Joker on the garbage heap. If you hated Deadpool though, I'd approach this one very cautiously.
Star Rating: *** out of 5 stars
Better Than: Deadpool 2
Worse Than: Deadpool, Suicide Squad
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