The LEGO Batman Movie
Nothing is really surprising about the fact that, after the phenomenally unexpected success of “The LEGO Movie,” the next film in the franchise was going to center around Will Arnett’s riotous Batman. Other than perhaps Charlie Day’s Bennie the astronaut, Arnett’s hilarious interpretation of the Dark Knight as a brooding, heavy metal-performing narcissist was the comedic highlight of a movie that had Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Morgan Freeman, Alison Brie and Will Farrell all clicking on all cylinders. Plus, Warner Bros. is going to take any chance it can get to get a new Batman film in front of audiences- why not one all audiences can enjoy?
The good news about “The LEGO Batman Movie” is that it’s probably the most fun the Caped Crusader has been in years. The bad news is that because it is so focused in on being a Batman movie, it’s not a great LEGO movie. The imagination and heart of Chris Miller and Phil Lord’s 2014 film about the children’s building blocks are largely missing from this story. Part of what made “The LEGO Movie” so good is how it really honed in on the notion of just following the instructions that come with the blocks, or making your own things and really expanding the horizons of what’s possible with the toys. It makes sense that that is missing, but it also feels like a missed opportunity to really turn this into a rich multiverse. Here, we are getting what amounts to a DC Animation Batman story, but in LEGO form, and while there’s definitely a lot to love about this film, and it’s genuinely entertaining, I didn’t get the same kick out of it that I did “The LEGO Movie.”
We start in Gotham City, and the Joker (Zach Galifianakis) has assembled all of Batman’s Rogue Gallery for the purpose of destroying Gotham using a massive bomb. Commissioner Gordon (Hector Elizondo) needs to find Batman, but someone has taken out the Bat signal. No worries, though, because Batman makes his way on the scene, and kicks butt in the process, although he leaves Joker particularly stung when he implies that maybe he isn’t Batman’s greatest villain. Talk about kicking someone while they’re down, but this Batman sees himself as a true loner, even with his trusty butler, Alfred (Ralph Fiennes). When he goes to a gala celebrating the retirement of Gordon, who will be replaced by his daughter, Barbara (Rosario Dawson), he completely ignores an orphan, Dick Grayson (Michael Cera), who is trying to get him to adopt him, only to be surprised when he’s at Wayne Manor later. Will Batman/Bruce Wayne figure out that he needs to have these people in his life to fill the hole left by his parents?
The references to Batman’s past, both on the big screen and “that weird phase in 1966,” is some of the most fun humor in the movie, especially as we see words come up on screen, in brick form, during the final fight sequence. And I will admit, this adds some fresh wrinkles to the Batman/Joker dynamic that I never saw coming, and Arnett and Galifianakis play it off beautifully. This is a very fun movie, with a climax that just gets insane when you consider adding Gremlins, King Kong, Sauron and Voldemort into the equation. You don’t really want to complain too much about a franchise movie this fun, because they are few and far between, but given the franchise it’s extending, you feel like something more could have been done to take it to a whole new level.