With the surprise success of 2014’s The Lego Movie, Warner Bros. takes the Marvel route on building its own cinematic universe. With its roster of the DC Extended Universe losing steam maybe it’ll have a better chance with Legos in the first of these spin-offs: The Lego Batman Movie.
Will Arnett returns as the caped crusader from The Lego Movie, whose self-absorbed actions create a chain of events that threatens his Lego home world of Gotham City. Among his list of allies include Batman’s ever-loyal butler Alfred (Ralph Fiennes), the eager and energetic Robin (Michael Cera) who is inadvertently adopted into the Bat family, and Barbara Gordon aka Batgirl (Rosario Dawson) the new commissioner of Gotham City and in an odd decision, Batman’s love interest (In previous adaptations she and Robin are about the same age, way younger than Batman).
From what was a small supporting role to having an entire movie, the Batman lore is hilariously satirized from its comic-book origins, the feature films by Tim Burton, Joel Schumacher, Christopher Nolan, Zack Snyder, and the corny Adam West series. The opening scene alone is one of the best gags (can’t wait to see what online reviewers CinemaSins have to say about that scene alone) and with it being the Lego universe it takes advantage of its world with a few familiar faces that had me impressed.
First time film director Chris McKay has previous work that includes Robot Chicken, Morel Orel, and Titan Maximum; stop motion cartoons on the Adult Swim block. I say this because The Lego Batman Movie plays out as a skit one would find on those shows from the self-aware jokes, lampooning various tropes, quick-wit dialogue, putting familiar characters into positions no one’s ever imagined, celebrity voice cast, and Seth Green doing one of his vocal impressions. The only difference is that there’s a bigger budget, longer run-time and much more family-friendly for kids. Its constant meta-humor gets exhausting after a while that it slows down plot several times. It gets in the way of a couple of somber moments, not to mention a few scenes that came off as awkward than funny. Compared to previous portrayals of the Joker in both live-action and animation this is the weakest and subdued version I’ve seen and Zack Galifianakis, who’s no stranger to voice-work plays a rather tame version of the clown prince of crime. On the up-side, it’s a better performance than Jared Leto in Suicide Squad.
What saves this movie is the amount of heart it has. Batman confronting his personal fears, the father-and-son bond he shares with Robin is cute and its third act echoing a bit of The Lego Movie’s climax. It’s not on the same level as that movie but The Lego Batman Movie is still good if not great that makes it a goofy yet somewhat enjoyable watch.