Something happened to the Tim Burton BATMAN films after the ultra-serious Christopher Nolan vehicles made many long for superhero simplicity, while the Joel Schumaker trainwrecks gave an impression that something good was turned extremely bad, and yet, BATMAN RETURNS is really a tiresome, eclectic mess, not quite certain who and what to center on since there are way too many cooks, all going drastically overboard...

Especially the director himself, who uses so many of his stylized Gothic popup-book visuals that the Jack Nicholson BATMAN seemed tame by comparison... which was more of a BATMAN movie directed by Burton while RETURNS is a Burton movie that happens to involve BATMAN... and not very much, which is why Michael Keaton, with too much screen-time centering on the villains, winded up quitting the role, yet it's difficult to tell who the real antagonists are since Penguin... played by an overacting, bad monologue-spouting Danny DeVito... is so pathetic with a genuinely tragic backstory that he's never quite as evil (or dangerous) as he should be... and Christopher Walken's corporate tycoon makes DeVito's creature as benign as Keaton felt in the titular role: Meanwhile, Michelle Pheiffer's CAT WOMAN seems like her own solo movie's being invaded by characters who should be more important here... but eventually, too much happens in BATMAN RETURNS for anything to really stick, or wind up mattering beyond the overdose of Burton's self-inflicted style over substance. RATING: **

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