Part of me wants to say, "This movie isn't insane, it's just awful." And certainly, "awful" is a big part of it--nobody explained to Joel Schumacher that Batman could be other things besides the campy 60s series (not even after the seriously terrible "Batman Forever", which you'd think would have tipped some people off) and he set out to direct a movie that Adam West and Burt Ward wouldn't be out of place in.
(As an aside, I've never really liked the 60s TV series. I know some people say, "Hey, if you manage to set aside the pernicious and detrimental effect it had on Batman as a character, super-hero comics in general, and the reputation of the medium as a whole, it's actually got some funny bits," but every time I watched it, all those funny bits seemed to revolve around the idea that the people making it knew it was crap, instead of thinking they were doing something worthwhile.)
In any event, "Batman and Robin" is terrible, yes. But it's not just terrible...or at the least, it's terrible in such a way that you can't imagine how any sane person could have made it, which is the same thing for our purposes. The film opens smack-dab in the middle of what it laughably calls action, as Arnold Schwarzenegger's Mister Freeze steals a giant fake diamond with the aid of his evil hockey team and ice gun. Although honestly, I think that most of the security guards he froze solid probably preferred the icy chill of death to his constant ice-themed puns.
This is actually one of the strangest things about the movie. They keep the deadly-serious motivations of the villains, for the most part--Freeze is still trying to save his dying wife while trying to find a cure for his own condition, and Poison Ivy is still a madwoman who wants to wipe out the entire human race--but the actors play their characters like the comic relief B-villains. While Bane, who could probably sustain a movie in his own right, is reduced to being the comic relief C-villain...but plays his part relatively straight.
In any event, Batman and Robin spend what feels like forty years trying to stop Mister Freeze, only to fail miserably and get into a fight about how Robin is too impetuous and Batman doesn't trust him. (Hint: This will be a Theme.) Meanwhile, Michael Gough's Alfred tries to play his part with dignity, which is hard to do when your entire role consists of mouthing bland platitudes and then grimacing in pain after everyone else leaves the shot. (See, Alfred is dying. Just in case you didn't get that, the movie takes great pains to drive the point home with wince after wince of anguished pain. After a while, you start wondering if maybe he shouldn't eat an all-burrito diet.)
Then Alfred's hot niece comes to visit, played with role-destroying vapidity by Alicia Silverstone, and then that sub-plot stalls for time until we find out she's actually a rebellious kung-fu biker chick underneath her schoolgirl exterior, but a nice rebellious kung-fu biker chick who would love to channel her energies into vigilante crime-fighting if only she stumbled into the Batcave and found out that her dying uncle had made her a skin-tight spandex outfit. Hypothetically.
Then we cut to plant researcher Pamela Isley, who's insane. But not nearly as insane as her boss, Jason Woodrue, played with enjoyable scenery-chewing skill by John Glover. (Don't get me wrong, everyone chews the scenery in this movie. But Glover at least does it with some panache, and he's playing a mad scientist who's actually meant to be over-the-top.) Woodrue is using her research to create a super-steroid called Venom, which he uses to make a super-soldier named Bane. Then he tries to kill Isley, but only succeeds in turning her into Poison Ivy, which allows her to make a rather more successful murder attempt on Woodrue. (Uma Thurman, by the way, delivers all her lines like she's channeling Kim Cattrall in "Big Trouble In Little China".)
Meanwhile, Bruce Wayne helps a bunch of scientists build a "telescope" which is actually a giant MacGuffin for whatever the plot needs to do in the third act, and we find out that he's got another girlfriend (continuing the streak of having a new "serious girl" every movie. Given that both Vicki Vale and Chase Meridian found out his secret identity, and that both of them vanish without a trace in the next film, it might be worth investigating some of those bottomless pits in the Batcave. Just saying.) Oh, and he announces a big charity auction with lots of diamonds involved, which he's planning as a trap for Mister Freeze because his freeze-gun uses diamonds for fuel. (Despite the fact that synthetic diamonds have been around for fifty years, super-villains who need to use them to power giant lasers always seem to need the real thing. Go fig.)
Batman and Robin show up at the charity auction, because the best kind of trap is always the kind that involves dozens of potential hostages! Poison Ivy shows up too, planning to, um...I guess, something maybe with money, or...maybe she wants...um...in any event, she shows up and uses her pheromones to turn Batman and Robin against each other. This takes the form of them bidding on the right to date her, leading to Batman pulling out the Bat-Credit-Card in what had to be the exact moment where audiences lost their patience with the entire franchise so badly that they wouldn't make another live-action Batman film for eight years, and that only after replacing the director and all the actors concerned.
Then Mister Freeze shows up, and after a brief, embarrassingly perfunctory fight scene, he's captured and sent to Arkham. Poison Ivy decides to break him out so that they can team up and destroy the human race. Because nothing makes a more natural team than a plant-themed villain and one who wants to freeze the entire planet in sub-Arctic cold! Oh, yeah, that's Freeze's new motivation, because Ivy murders his wife and blames it on Batman. Which creates conflict, because Bruce finds out that Alfred is dying of the same rare disease that was killing Freeze's wife, and Freeze is the only one who knows how to save him!
During the break-out, Robin gets hit with another dose of Poison Ivy's pheromones, and decides to strike out as a solo super-hero. Which is somewhat ironic, as this movie was so terrible it actually acted as a speed-bump for his acting career. Playing a character who wants to be more ambitious and stop living in other people's shadows, even as the part winds up forcing him to take supporting roles for a while? Yeah, that qualifies. I think. In any event, Batman and Robin are totally on the verge of breaking up their partnership, and it's certainly not the kind of problem that can be solved by a wooden, unconvincing speech delivered with an utter lack of interest by George Clooney. So there's that, then.
Then we get into the third act. It turns out that by sheerest coincidence, Bruce Wayne's "telescope" can be used to beam freezing cold all over Gotham City, and Freeze plans to do exactly that! Robin tricks Poison Ivy into telling him by pretending he's still under her spell, then Batgirl defeats her in an awkward, stilted, hideously sexist sequence that neither actress will ever live down. By the way, this is the point where the script remembers that everyone already knew Barbara was going to be Batgirl.
Then it's just a matter of defeating Freeze and beaming heat all over the city to melt the ice, which can apparently be done with Bruce Wayne's "telescope". It is really damned hard to escape the conclusion that Bruce Wayne built a gigantic, obvious super-weapon as a lure to maniacal super-criminals all over the world just to give himself something to do. Afterwards, they show footage of Ivy confessing to Freeze's wife's murder, reveal that she's not quite dead yet after all, and offer Freeze facilities in Arkham to cure his wife if he'll only save Alfred. It's sort of like a plea bargain, except that the actual law doesn't get a say in the matter. Freeze agrees, handing over the cure and saying, "Take two and call me in the morning." That's this movie's Mister Freeze in a nutshell--no matter how bleak his life and his outlook, he still has a sunny quip for every occasion!
So the movie ends happily. Alfred is cured, Poison Ivy is in jail (with Mister Freeze as her wacky cell-mate), and Batman and Batgirl and Robin go off to fight crime. And we're happy, because the movie actually ended. As bad as the description of the plot sounds, it doesn't do justice to the terrible performances, the bizarre art direction choices (every set looks like it was decorated by a twelve-year-old girl and then lit by blacklights) and the incompetent action sequences. The film itself? About an eight on the Insanometer. The fact that everyone concerned, at every step of the process, thought that this was going to be a quality summer blockbuster with the potential to set up a fifth film, "Batman Triumphant"? That's got to be an eleven. Maybe even a twelve.