The Lego Batman Movie is a spin-off of 2014’s surprisingly amazing The Lego Movie. As one would assume, The Lego Batman Movie follows the previous film’s version of Bruce Wayne/Batman in the Lego world of Gotham, which, as hinted at in the film, takes place on the same table of Legos owned by The Man Upstairs. Like all good Batman stories, this movie pits Batman against the Joker and the rest of the stellar Rogues Gallery. The twist in this story, beyond the obvious Lego-ized version, is that Batman has to learn the power of teamwork and family, that he can’t do everything alone.
This is a great lesson to teach children, and one the film does incredibly well. The strength of the film lies within the voice performances and the film’s emotional payoffs. Will Arnett leads the stellar cast by reprising his role as Batman. He is joined by a very jovial Michael Cera as Dick Grayson/Robin, the always welcome Rosario Dawson (who deserves to be a bigger star) as Barbara Gordon, Ralph Fiennes as Alfred Pennyworth, and Zach Galifianakis as the Joker. Through the course of the film, Batman’s fear of committing to a family and admitting that he isn’t alone is tested, allowing the film to create some very funny and very sweet moments. From Batman refusing to tell the Joker “I hate you” to Alfred trying to connect to Bruce on an emotional level as he attempts to teach him the importance of family and cooperation. Will Arnett gives a solid performance as Batman, who is childish and sad and self-isolated, complimenting the themes.
Unfortunately, the film is not without flaws. The film is too long, the jokes fall flat at times, and although it is beautifully animated, the action on screen can be too busy, with the neon color backdrop causing some confusion and disarray in the bigger set pieces. It drags in the middle, when much of the film is highly repetitive as it constantly reminds you of how lonely Batman is. Ten minutes probably should have been trimmed from the film to make the film tighter, remove some of the repetitive jokes and bring more focus to the film. And there is an end credits song that is desperately trying to be the next “Everything is Awesome”, but is not as clever, witty, or original. It’s just annoying.
Some of my favorite parts of the film come from its many references to previous Batman films, Batman microwaving his lobster dinners, and the many obscure nods to the DC universe and Batman’s Rogue Gallery. I consistently laughed at the parody of relationship and romantic comedy films, as the Joker and Batman’s antagonistic relationship is subverted by portraying the Joker as a character who is stuck in a “loveless” (or in this film, hateless) relationship where Batman under appreciates the Joker. The film is funny and the world of these Lego characters is a fun, colorful, and so clever in the way it uses the silliness of Lego’s to enhance the humor.
The film overall is enjoyable, never reaching the heights of its predecessor, but still telling a solid Batman story in the process. I’m not sure how rewatchable this film will be, as I find The Lego Movie to be, but it is one worth watching, particularly if you have children. All of the kids in the audience at my screening loved it, even interacting with the story and the characters. It is a fun adventure and Will Arnett, Michael Cera and Rosario Dawson all give great voice performances. It has strong themes and lessons and is funny. It’s a good movie, just not a great Batman one.