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No Leto Needed: Critics Are Loving ‘Birds of Prey’ Without the Joker

The 'Suicide Squad' spin-off is "tasty, chewy and disposable as bubble gum."

Clubhouse Pictures/DC

Margot Robbie’s performance as Harley Quinn was the best part of Suicide Squad, and she definitely earned her own movie. That film, Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn), opens tomorrow. The reviews are starting to come in, and they’re giving us a sense of whether the film is worth the cost of admission and the 109 minutes of your time.

The short answer is a resounding yes. Eighty-six of the 95 reviews aggregated by Rotten Tomatoes are positive, suggesting that Birds of Prey is the first great popcorn movie of 2020.

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The action sequences are getting tons of praise, and they honestly sound absolutely bananas. Writing for Gamespot, Meg Downey included a partial rundown.

“A car chase on roller skates? Check. A police evidence locker brawl that ends in a cloud of cocaine while a remix of Ram Jam’s Black Betty blares? Check. A massive showdown in the world’s coolest funhouse? Check, check, and check… These are some of the most fun-to-watch fight scenes the superhero genre has showcased thus far.”

In Variety, Owen Gleiberman said the “action scenes have a deftly detonating visual spaciousness, capped by crowd-pleasing moments like the one where Harley, brandishing a baseball bat, ricochets it off the floor with perfect slow-mo timing.”

These set pieces make up for a plot that sounds kind of shaky, but ultimately not bad enough to make the film less fun. John DeFore in The Hollywood Reporter wrote that the screenplay “indulges in a couple of epic flashbacks as it lays this premise out, sometimes disrupting chronological momentum for no clear purpose.”

Also helping is the fact that the film is “more about its characters and mood than its plot,” according to Sean Keene of CNET. And speaking of characters, there’s a lot of positive notes for Rosie Perez, Jurnee Smollett-Bell, and Mary Elizabeth Winstead as the rest of the titular gang. Gleiberman and others said they wished there’d been more of them in the movie, something that will hopefully be fixed if (when) there’s a sequel.

The best summation of the film belongs to Justin Chang of the Los Angeles Times, who called it “tasty, chewy and disposable as bubble gum.” It’s good for a fun day at the movies, but don’t expect anything profound. In other words, it’s exactly what you’d expect from a comic book movie.