Warner Bros. took one heck of a chance bringing the popular Lego construction bricks to life with “The Lego Movie”. Three years later they have taken one of their own most valuable character rights and one of “The Lego Movie’s” most popular characters and gave him his own film, “The Lego Batman Movie”, which manages to take one of those ”they’re out of ideas” concepts and makes it a legitimate an fun adventure that is a surprising joy to watch. While seemingly box office bait and a cash grab with a ridiculous concept, “The Lego Batman Movie” is a hilarious and a well-displayed bit of child-safe and adult-friendly entertainment with enough cheeky references and heart for any moviegoer to enjoy.
It should be understood from the get go that this is, in fact, a spin-off and not a direct sequel to “The Lego Movie”. While Will Arnett reprises the role as the Lego version of The Dark Knight, as do many who played other DC heroes that appeared in the first film, “The Lego Batman Movie” is very much its own story as Batman once again puts an end to a dastardly plan involving many of his most iconic foes led by his nemesis The Joker, played by Zack Galifanakis (“The Hangover” franchise). After Batman denies the Joker the right to be considered his greatest foe during a stand off the Clown Prince of Crime puts a plan into motion to use Batman’s ego against him and recruits some of the Lego world’s greatest villains, including many from pop culture properties owned by Warner Bros. and its various studios, for his most destructive scheme yet.
While obviously targeting kids, “The Lego Batman Movie” is a surprisingly multi-layered film and a very enjoyable watch for almost anyone who respects superhero culture and the history of Batman on the big screen. Numerous times the film harkens back to Batman’s previous cinematic adventures and even includes a delightfully cheeky reference to “The Suicide Squad”. The movie does not take itself too seriously at all, and that, as it turns out, that’s part of its charm without taking away from the deeper message the film has to share.
We get the clichés of Batman’s lost parents and his seemingly indestructible nature, despite not having actual super powers, but unlike past Batman films we finally get to see the character come face to face with his loneliness and isolation as a weakness rather than a strength. In the past we’ve seen his willingness to be a solitary figure as something that empowers him and makes him a stronger-minded hero, but here Batman is vulnerable. While his ego makes him hilarious and blunt, subtle comedic moments drive at a deeper emotion behind the cowl and The Joker takes advantage of this, throwing it in Batman’s face and putting Batman in a position where he is forced to question his role in society. For the first time we finally see a true struggle with Batman’s inner demons as the central theme of a movie instead of simply a character building element that drives his solo crusade through Gotham. This superhero movie fan, which happens to be one of my favorite genres, can only sit back and ask “why in the world did it take a ridiculous concept like a Lego-themed movie to finally portray the most delicate and human parts of Batman so perfectly?”
I have to give props to Will Arnett who seems to have found a new calling as a voice actor in recent years and is able to bring out the hilarity, vibrato, and even the sensitivity of The Dark Night in very effective fashion. Complimented by top notch voice over work by Galifanakis, Rosario Dawson (who funny enough is well known for her roles in Marvel Netflix series) as Barbara Gordon/Batgirl, Michael Cera (“Superbad”, “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World”) as Robin, and Ralph Fiennes (the “Harry Potter” franchise) as Alfred the entire cast plays very well off of each other and provides possibly one of the most complete casts of characters any Batman film has probably ever seen. Heck we have almost every Batman villain in one movie, even some of the more ridiculous ones, and we probably got more fun and enjoyment from their brief moments on screen than pretty much any other Batman villain on the big screen, other than maybe Ledger and Nicholson’s Jokers.
Add to that the ability for Warner Bros. to take a few liberties with this film by its Lego-themed nature alone and add in a bunch of cameos by surprise villains and heroes from the DC Universe and beyond and not only do we get a fun filled adventure for everyone to enjoy, but possibly one of the most complete and enjoyable Batman movies ever created and maybe even one of the coolest super hero films to date. Warner Bros. may not be able to get their DC Expended Universe on stable ground, but somehow they managed to hit all the right notes with a children’s movie. Go figure!
For any parents who had questions about joining their child in watching this film all I can say is it’s worth the time. If you are a fan of superhero films or Batman specifically there is plenty for you to enjoy, maybe even a few things your kid won’t understand. “The Lego Batman Movie” is a surprisingly deep film about family, identity, and self worth wrapped inside a tremendously funny comedy filled with some of the most amazing meta jokes and self referential humor and some great superhero action that makes for a surprisingly complete and enjoyable adventure anyone can appreciate.