When The Lego Movie came out, I was honestly skeptical. The idea of throwing a popular toy franchise on to the big screen reeked of a get-rich-quick scheme by Hollywood producers, hoping to capitalize only on the brand name and not put much effort into the cinematic experience. Fortunately, I was very wrong, and admittedly, I fell for the same thinking trap again with The LEGO Batman Movie.
I figured The LEGO Movie’s success was nostalgia driven and wouldn’t be able to be replicated in future spin-offs. However, The LEGO Batman Movie proved you can make a great movie on two massive franchises (Batman and LEGOs) without feeling like a cheap cash grab. With fun and hilarious comedy, lovable characters, fast pacing and emotional stakes, The LEGO Batman Movie is well worth the trip to the theater.
Directed by Chris McKay and written by Seth Grahame-Smith, The LEGO Batman Movie follows Batman (Will Arnett), everyone’s favorite superhero, as he fights off all of Gotham’s most notorious crime lords. When the Joker (Zach Galifianakis) and all of Gotham’s villains choose to be imprisoned, Gotham decides they don’t need the caped crusader anymore — Batman discovers what it means to be part of a family again when he takes on raising Dick Grayson (Michael Cera), his adopted son.
Batman has a rich and vibrant television and cinematic history spanning back to the old black and white films, and The LEGO Batman Movie doesn’t shy away from making fun of all of it while simultaneously embracing it as core to Batman’s character. Adults will pick up on all the older references to the Adam West Batman (and merrily laugh) while kids will love the more current references to Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and The Dark Knight trilogy. It’s not ashamed, and that is this movie’s greatest strength. By being in on the joke and being able to laugh at itself, it rises above the pretension that’s been recently attached to the franchise.
The comedy is just as punching, fast, meta, zany and quirky as The LEGO Movie, if not more so, but is able to stand on its own and be its own voice.
Most of that is thanks to the writing of Batman’s character and Will Arnett. The best kind of comedic writing right now is the unrestrained, try anything approach found in Guardians of the Galaxy and Deadpool. The LEGO Batman Movie takes the same approach, throwing every kind of joke imaginable at the audience, and with its great timing most of the jokes land. Overall, and most importantly, it tells jokes that adults will get but go over kids’ heads while simultaneously reaching down to their level to make them laugh and get excited.
It’s refreshing that it’s not just a mindless kids animation movie. The writing tries to reach you on a deeper emotional level as best it can within its solid comedy framework. For instance, while Batman jokes frequently about not wanting anything to do with Robin (and doing everything himself), as the movie progresses he’s drawn in and connects with his character. Most of the movie he struggles with reconciling the trauma of his parents, being a loner, and accepting the help of others. His larger than life ego and megalomania, while a huge joke during the movie, acts as a massive crutch for a bruised and broken boy deep inside the thick exterior. Learning you don’t always have to do things on your own, Batman even goes a step further later in the story, giving kids and adults a moral lesson that goes beyond what we normally see in films.
While The LEGO Batman Movie does a few things to distinguish itself from The LEGO Movie like slowing the pace down a little more, staving off highly annoying songs (Everything is Awesome, anyone?) and not having any live action surprises, it still falls prey to being The LEGO Movie’s formulaic successor, hitting the same plot points and emotional beats but only tweaking a few things.
For instance, in The LEGO Movie, Emmet is a happy loser with no friends. While in The LEGO Batman Movie, Batman is a sad winner with no friends. While it might make economic sense to recapture the success of The LEGO Movie, I think audiences will eventually catch wind of the repetition.
Walking into a theater skeptical and leaving satisfied, I can honestly say there’s a lot to love in The LEGO Batman Movie, including hilarious comedy and fun action. While my biggest complaint is that it feels a little too similar to The LEGO Movie, I think it tries its hardest to distinguish itself as a solid action-adventure comedy while doing justice to a beloved superhero character. All in all, it’s another great installment in the LEGO movie franchise and is well worth the price of admission.
Photos Courtesy of: Warner Bros.