Film Review – The LEGO Batman Movie
The LEGO Batman Movie
Good News! Everything is still Awesome!
Back in 2014, The LEGO Movie was a shot of pure joy. It was the best kind of surprise, a property that was likely to only be a 90 minute commercial for a toy line was in actuality a smart, subversive, energetic, joyus ode to creativity. That film’s mashing up of intellectual properties and genres along with whipsmart fast jokes was that rare family entertainment that really is for young and old.
And during that tale of Emmet and Wildstyle being accompanied by supporting characters from virtually every property LEGO was tied into, Will Arnett stole every scene as Batman. His personality as a goth “Batcaver” who listened to death metal music about dead parents and darkness while being completely vain was hilarious.
He was such a success that he got his own new spinoff film: The LEGO Batman Movie. And it is nearly as wonderful as it’s predecessor.
From the opening credits, the smart meta-jokes begin. “A black screen. All important movies start with a black screen.” Batman does a voice over during the logos at the beginning. He drives his multitudinous Bat-themed vehicles while listening to a playlist of rock songs he wrote himself. The Joker, voiced by a gleeful Zach Galifinakis, brings together all of Batman’s villains just to prove to the hero that the Joker is his greatest nemesis. But Batman’s insistence that he doesn’t need anyone else, not even an arch enemy, crushes the Joker’s spirit.
This film features most every Batman villain throughout his long history. I won’t name them all here, but I can say that these are all real villains from the comics and properties. Yes, even The Condiment King. To name all of them would spoil some of the fun (though a special shout out to fans of Doug Benson who are familiar with his frequent podcast impression that he gets to be the voice of Bane!). But to thwart Batman, at one point the villains unite with enemies from other properties again. So like the previous story we get another cross genre jam of characters.
The great things these LEGO movies feature is great pacing with a light touch and the ability to fill every inch of the frame. This movie could take several repeated viewings to be able to spot all of the businesses Gotham features in it’s downtown or all of the wonderful touches around Wayne Manor or what all of the supporting characters are doing in the background. There are fast, smart references to previous Batman movies and TV shows. Touches indicate this could all just be a world that kids are creating through play include all of the gun shots are literally “Pew Pew” sounds villains and police make with their mouths or how new Police Commissioner Barbara Gordon (Rosario Dawson) was educated at “Harvard for Police”. It’s the fact that energy and imagination is spilling out beyond the movie image itself that creates something endearing.
The inevitable comparison to the original LEGO Movie shows that the first film has a little more heart than this one. That movie’s message about putting aside time for imagination and play with family members through the Will Ferrell character was surprisingly touching. This movie flirts with seriousness very briefly when addressing Bruce Wayne’s resistance to letting Alfred and Robin get close to him because he’s afraid of losing them just like he lost his parents. But it’s just slightly less impactful this time around which makes this movie just a smidge less significant. To use a tired sports metaphor, the original was a Grand Slam home run and this is a solid triple. Still great.
The voice-work including Ralph Fiennes as Alfred and Michael Cera as Robin, the animation, the comedy, and the just plain fun of The LEGO Batman Movie is all spectacular. This is another kids’ movie that parents won’t mind. It’s got enough cleverness for grown ups and enough bright silly action for the kids. Very recommended.