There’s a witty awareness to The Lego Batman Movie that makes the absurdity of a Lego Batman movie more amusing than one would think. It’s aware of the counter-intuitive nature of Batman’s ego to play around with the character’s self-centeredness for laughs. It’s aware of Batman’s long history of varying tones and goofy villains to poke fun at all of the ridiculous inconsistencies. It’s aware that the movie must end with a song and dance number to please parents and studio executives.
And, yet, it still has time to find a little bit of heart in the arc of its costumed hero. It may be crowded around the swarm of jokes and action, but I assure you it’s there.
Batman (Will Arnett) is in his ultimate cocky form as the most praised crime-fighter of Gotham City. His ego reaching the level of a demi-god, he refuses to acknowledge his loneliness and longing for a family. His loyal butler Alfred (Ralph Fiennes) has to be the dad that keeps Bruce Wayne in check, forcing him to say please and placing parental locks on his computers to get his attention. All that’s missing are the scenes of forcing Bruce to eat his veggies and grounding him. He does give Batman a timeout, but only during an airborne scuffle on the Bat-Jet so it seems more absurd and awesome.
Two Lego figures enter his life that makes him reconsider his lonely and self-centered war on crime. Barbara Gordon (Rosario Dawson) has taken over as commissioner of Gotham City, having recently graduated from Harvard for Police. Though smitten by her presence, Batman quickly grows to despise her, as she wants to work with Batman on a more ethical basis. Batman only plays by Batman’s rules and can’t be tied down by some lady commissioner, even if he really, really, really likes her.
While Batman tries to grapple with this new relationship, he inadvertently adopts the adorable orphan Dick Grayson (Michael Cera), a boy with eyes so big he could be an anime character. Trying to find something for the boy to do, he employs him as his expendable sidekick. He wants to be called Robin, but Batman doesn’t like the ring of his sidekick being named after a fragile bird. It’ll probably grow on him, despite an initial hard pass.
But there’s one more relationship he forgot about and it’s probably the strangest of them all. The Joker (Zach Galifianakis) considers himself to be Batman’s greatest villain, but Batman does not reciprocate the hate. This deeply wounds the clown prince of crime as he tries to round up all of Batman’s villains to hatch a most grand scheme to attain his rightful place as the Gotham’s #1 bad guy. But when Gotham’s most evil can’t get the job done, Joker ventures outside his own universe to grab some other movie franchise villains. In the realm of Lego, there are no borders to crossovers. The Joker can team up with King Kong and the Wicked Witch to rule Gotham, just as any imaginative kid with a fistful of Legos would concoct such a scenario.
The other rules of the Lego universe established in The Lego Movie are very much adhered to as well. As a Master Builder, Batman is able to pick apart the bricks of his environment and quickly assemble a rescue jet. Gotham City rests on top of the giant void, the place where all Legos discover the truth about who controls their wild worlds. The simplicity of the Lego designs not only makes for some amusing sight gags, but also the solution to many of the catastrophic events. What kid didn’t stack Lego people on top of each other by connecting heads to legs?
Kids will undeniably love the frenetic action and child-like dialogue of the script, but adult Batman fans may love The Lego Batman Movie even more for the clever satire of Batman’s history. The endless cavalcade of references come rapid-fire from Alfred rattling off Batman’s movie resume (including the 1960’s version with dancing) to the lesser rogue’s gallery of bad guys (including the Condiment King). Several in-jokes for deeply entrenched Batman fans are present as when Batman states he doesn’t do the whole “ship” thing with Joker (Google it and prepared to be horrified). An interesting casting choice was Billy Dee Williams in the small role of Two Face; Williams had played the character of Harvey Dent in the Batman movies before getting the chance to play Two-Face, but now he’s been given the role he deserved.
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