LEGO Batman is a nerdfest of epic quality. There are no two ways about it. I was expecting it be funny like the first LEGO movie, a film that the whole family can go to, but LEGO Batman far exceeded my expectations and made the geek girl who watched the Sixties Batman in reruns cheer.
The movie begins by showing us Batman (Will Arnett) fighting crime and saving the city all by himself, avoiding any hint of relationships. Joker (Zach Galifianakis) asks as they battle. “I’m your worst enemy, right?” Batman replies, “I like to fight around.” Afterwards, he heads home to his island mansion, eating lobster, watching Jerry McGuire and brooding over pictures of his parents.
But there are changes stirring in Gotham City. Alfred (Ralph Fiennes) wants Batman to deal with his emotions. Jim Gordan is retiring and his daughter Barbara (Rosario Dawson) is taking over, with a lot of progressive ideas that don’t necessarily include Batman, especially if he doesn’t want to work in a team.
At the retirement party for Jim, Bruce Wayne also accidently adopts orphan Richard Grayson aka Robin (Michael Cera). Joker and his crew of villains (all the villains that Batman has ever fought) crash the party and while Batman and Barbara argue over how to take care of the situation, Joker surrenders himself and the gang. What’s Batman going to do when there are no villains to catch?
The movie answers that question well, beginning with showing that Batman may just have to work in a team and drop the lone vigilante thing, if he wants to save everyone. The story manages to combine the funny with heart. Batman must figure out that friends are family and how to get past his tragic past to find a way to let others in. There is a great character arc with Batman stumbling at times but eventually learning how to change. Barbara is independent and smart, a perfect foil to Batman. Richard Grayson and Alfred challenge Batman at every turn. This is a great message for children as well as adults. When you lose someone you care about, you want to retreat. But you learn to allow others inside.
LEGO Batman is full of in jokes, nods to the old comics and TV shows, innuendo, and one liners. It is so crammed with geeky goodness that unless you watch it at least twice, you aren’t going to catch everything. But that’s what makes it great. It is so funny, that it was making us laugh even before the opening title. And the humor continues throughout the entire movie. There are a plethora of superhero and Sci-Fi references. The montage of Batman movies alone makes it worth the time. We even get the Pow and Ka-bam included from the Sixties TV show.
Not only do the voice actors do a fantastic job, but the animation is detailed and exquisite, so much that you see little bits of Lego fly through the air. The different bat vehicles are awesome with a lot of thought going into the different costumes and objects on display in the Bat Cave. It is far different from the original Lego movie, with little reference to that film but it has its own style, still seeing plenty of Lego people and machines in action. I suspect kids will be vying for Batman’s Scuttler ship.
The only downside I can offer is a slight disappointment that Mark Hamill wasn’t the voice of Joker. It would have added an extra layer of enjoyment and unfortunately, for me, the Joker didn’t quite sound right, even though Galifianakis did a great job. Voice is everything in animation for me.
Between the laughs, the brilliant parody of Batman, and the roller coaster of villains of every type and creed, this movie was fun and breathtaking all at the same time. If you like Batman, if you like Legos, if you like family movies where both the kids and the family will have a blast, go check it out. I’m certainly glad I did. But I may need to watch it again, just to catch every last innuendo and reference.
Rating: 4.5 stars
In the irreverent spirit of fun that made “The LEGO® Movie” a worldwide phenomenon, the self-described leading man of that ensemble – LEGO Batman (Will Arnett) – stars in his own big-screen adventure. But there are big changes brewing in Gotham, and if he wants to save the city from The Joker’s (Zach Galifianakis) hostile takeover, Batman may have to drop the lone vigilante thing, try to work with others and maybe, just maybe, learn to lighten up. Maybe his superhero sidekick Robin (Michael Cera) and loyal butler Alfred (Ralph Fiennes) can show him a thing or two.
Voice cast: Will Arnett (Batman), Zach Galifianakis (Joker), Michael Cera (Nightwing), Rosario Dawson (Barbara Gordon), Ralph Fiennes (Alfred), Channing Tatum (Clark Kent), Zoë Kravitz (Catwoman), Jenny Slate (Harley Quinn)
Director: Chris McKay
Music composed by: Lorne Balfe