Review: The Lego Batman Movie

2014’s The Lego Movie was a massive and welcome surprise for what was essentially a 90 minute commercial for toys, with Lord and Miller injecting tons of heart and humor into it’s crazy, unpredictable universe.  With Will Arnett’s arrogantly incompetent Batman being one of the stand out parts of The Lego Movie, it makes sense that he now has his own movie and it’s just as non-stop hilarious and brilliant as it’s predecessor.

Taking place in Batman’s corner of the Lego universe, Lego Gotham, Batman is at peak ego and selfishness, especially after defeating literally almost every villain who’s ever appeared on screen or in the comics in the incredible opening sequence.  After upsetting The Joker (Zach Galfianakis) by refusing the acknowledge they are arch-enemies, he turns himself and every villain over to new police commissioner, Barbara Gordon (Rosario Dawson), leaving Batman with nothing to do, which doesn’t sit will with the brick Caped Crusader.  The plot seems a little tighter than The Lego Movie, especially since there isn’t the jarring live action Deus Ex Machina, which is probably the only flaw of that movie, and it works gangbusters as the engine for the real joy of Lego Batman, endless references and homages to all forms of Batman.  There’s basically every Batmobile that’s ever appeared in the Batcave and z-list villains like Orca, Eraser, Gentleman Ghost, Polka Dot Man and even Condiment King show up.  There’s so much love for Batman 66, the Tim Burton batman, the Nolan movies and even the 40’s serials and the movie takes the hilarious premise that Lego Batman is the same one from all those movies and shows.  Besides the Batman jokes and references, there’s also just great random runners like constant references to Michael Jackson’s Man in the Mirror (including a cover by the one and only Richard Cheese!) and Batman’s favorite genre of movies being 90’s romantic comedies (like Jerry Maguire) that he laughs at when whenever something emotional happens.  Even right from the start, Batman is riffing on the various production logos.  Since this is a kid’s movie, there’s also a nice character arc for Batman about learning to let people back into his life and not be selfish dick who’s constantly mentioning his abs (all 9 of them), although it does kind of do the same lesson twice within the span of two scenes which is a little redundant but it’s fine.

The voice cast across the board are all stellar and hilarious.  Will Arnett leans even harder into making Batman seem like an ego driven, selfish teen who’s all about working out and listening to heavy metal with Ralph Fiennes playing Alfred as his exasperated “dad”.  Michael Cera is endlessly endearing as Robin, who Bruce absent mindedly adopts while distracted, Wayne’s World style, by Barbara and he has a wonderful running joke where he keeps calling Batman “padre” after running through a gamut of other father descriptors and is just overall hyper optimistic and naive.  Zach Galfianakis is fine as Joker but he’s fairly middle of the road, he’s definitely not at Mark Hamill/Troy Baker levels but he’s also not terrible like whoever voiced him for Telltale Batman.  He plays Joker like a hurt girlfriend and there’s lots of funny sequences where the other villains are basically like his girlfriends telling him to “dump” Batman.  Speaking of the other villains, it’s a murderer’s row of cameos like Doug Benson busting out his Bane voice for Bane (“We’ll be Gotham’s reckoning!”), Billy Dee Williams finally getting to play Two-Face, Jenny Slate playing Harley, Zoe Kravitz as Catwoman (who says “meow meow” after every sentence) and so many more (even some non-DC related ones!).  Rosario Dawson as Barbara is basically Claire from the Netflix Marvel shows and definitely takes up the baton from Wyldstyle in The Lego Movie (Batman definitely has a type).

Animation wise, this movie also feels like kind of a huge step up from The Lego Movie.  It still shares that movie’s sort of stop motiony movement for the characters but everything is much smoother and bigger and some of the establishing shots of Gotham City are legit gorgeous and it just feels more cinematic and impressive than it’s predecessor.

If you are a Batman fan, seeing this is a no-brainer.  It’s a love letter to literally everything Batman with tons of deep cut characters and references while also just being a wacky, fun Batman adventure with incredible voice acting and hilarious animation.  If the Lego movies keep being this good, I am in for the long haul.

 

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