February 9, 2017

This is the Batman that we need and deserve right now. Following up on the unexpected success of The Lego Movie, Warner Bros. has combined the world of toy building blocks with one of the most popular and pervasive characters of fiction. This movie is exactly what DC and their fans needed. It is a fresh take on the Caped Crusader, has a lot of heart, features fun characters, and (unlike every other DC movie) is endlessly funny.

Batman / Bruce Wayne (Will Arnett) once again saves Gotham city from a staggeringly broad rogues gallery, but soon learns that he needs more than just himself. He adopts Dick Greyson aka Robin (Michael Cera) and realizes that he is struggling with becoming part of a family again. Meanwhile the Joker (Zach Galifianakis) has another nefarious plan in his quest to defeat his archenemy. Plus, the new Gotham commissioner Barbara Gordon (Rosario Dawon) is working to make Gotham safer without relying on Batman. With all this going on, our hero certainly has a lot to deal with. Like following the instructions for a new Lego set, the plot does occasionally, feel rather safe and predictable.

The casting is pretty spot on. The performances feel very true to the characters, without rehashing some previous incarnation (and this franchise has a long history of animated versions). Ralph Fiennes is very proper and dry as the butler Alfred, Michael Cera is enthusiastically unintimidating as Robin, and Dawson as Batgirl feels strong and confident standing up to Batman’s ways. The only weak point in the cast is Galifianakis’ Joker. This character has a had a rich history of brilliant, chilling, amusing, and entertaining performances in his past. The acting felt uninteresting and phoned in. It would be an all right performance, if it were for any character who was not so iconic as The Joker. Still the standout is Arnett as the protagonist. He feels like he was born to be this overly serious, brooding incarnation of the character. You want to laugh just because he is saying anything. The entire rest of the supporting cast is pretty high caliber also which includes actors such as Jenny Slate, Ellie Kemper, Jason Mantzoukas, Conan O’Brien, Billy Dee Williams, Zoe Kravitz, Kate Micucci, Seth Green, Jemaine Clement, Channing Tatum, Adam Devine, Jonah Hill, and Mariah Carey as a host of villains as well as other characters. That is a lot of talent and I only wish that we heard a little more from this side performances.

Now this review has gone on too long without addressing the heart of what this movie is. This movie is a parody. A parody of Batman, of superheroes, and of DC (plus other Lego properties). This incarnation of Batman is the perfect result of how society views the character right now. He wants to be dark, cool, powerful, smart, and talented at rapping, but everyone else (like the audience members) recognizes his downfalls. The movie references every cinematic version of the superhero several times, particularly in a rather impressive building block style montage. Composer Lorne Balfe even pays homage to several of the themes from those previous movies (such as Bane’s theme, the Joker’s theme, and Batman’s original TV theme). Basically the more you love and know about Batman and his history the more you will enjoy this movie. In a way, this is ‘Deadpool’ for kids. This is certainly the perfect way to begin what is the biggest year for superhero movies yet. It also feels like every kids play time with Legos, just like the original Lego Movie.

Also like 2014’s The Lego Movie, The LEGO Batman Movie shows the high quality animation that Warner Bros can achieve. The use of lighting and color is particularly engaging. This makes the movie look enjoyable while also representing the style that we have come to expect from Gotham and the Batcave, as well as the fast paced action sequences. This movie doesn’t necessarily add too much to The Lego Movie’s look and quality, but anyone who has seen that movie (which I would always encourage people to check out) will see that same skill here. Often though the movie does not feel like it had to be a Lego Movie. It is hard to think of reasons why this couldn’t simply be a fun animated movie, besides that it is in the same world as the Lego Movie. Though that doesn’t entirely make sense (I still don’t know which movie takes place first).

As stated before, the score is by composer Lorne Balfe (one of Hans Zimmer’s frequent collaborators). He has recently composed the music for Terminator Genisys, Home, and Penguins of Madagascar. His use of orchestra, playfulness, and dedication to themes makes him an easy pick. This movie builds on where past Batman music has been, but in a fun and non-depressing way. Similar to the film, the music is always on the nose. For example the music for the Phantom Zone is mainly a choir singing just the words “The Phantom Zone, the Phantom Zone” at octaves. Overall the score is zany, action packed, and enjoyable from start to finish.

The humor in this movie is top notch. It is one of the funniest movies that I have seen in years. It has no shame in making fun of itself. The jokes often come so fast that movie-goers are certain to miss a few by virtue of still laughing from a previous joke. A few jokes can be a little repetitive or not as funny as you would like, but that can be expected when dealing with this high of a jokes/minute ratio. It is the type of movie where you forget that there is a plot and you just want to see these characters do fun things.

The movie is more than just laughs (though that would be hard to tell if you were just listening to the audience). The movie tells a great story of the value of teamwork, relying on others, being an inspiration for good, and finding your place in the world. These are great lessons for kids and those who are young at heart.

The Lego Batman Movie is exactly what DC needed after the lackluster reactions to their current 3 grim DCEU films. This reminds us about what we love about Batman and the rest of DC’s roster. I’d be happy if the WB decided to make the rest of the DCEU as Lego movies. After The Lego Movie’s great success, this movie is constructed piece by piece to give us DC’s best movie since Nolan’s The Dark Knight. Now that Lego and WB has my confidence with this franchise, I’m surprising very much looking forward to The Lego Ninjago Movie.

Chris McKay’s animated action adventure superhero spin-off THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE from Warner Bros Animation & Rat Pack Entertainment stars Will Arnett, Zach Galifianakis, Michael Cera, Rosario Dawson, Ralph Fiennes, Siri (?), Jenny Slate, Ellie Kemper, & others and is out in theaters February 10th, 2017.

PG – 1hr 44min


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