We’ve seen many incarnations of Batman since he first made the jump from the comic book page to the screen. He’s been both campy and gritty, animated and live action, and occasionally cringe-inducing (yes, I’m referring to you, “Batman and Robin”). He also ended up stealing the show in tiny brick form in 2014’s unexpected hit “The Lego Movie.” Will Arnett’s Lego caped crusader quickly emerged as a fan favorite from that movie, and he’s now been given his own standalone feature, out in theaters this past weekend. Although it can’t quite top the original “Lego Movie,” it’s a fun, colorful adventure with plenty to keep both adults and children entertained.
Lego Batman/Bruce Wayne starts off his solo outing living the good life…or so he thinks. Surrounded by his favorite things — darkness, solitude, and loud, angry music — he fights crime in Gotham and then crashes at his island mansion. His longsuffering butler Alfred thinks this isolation isn’t good for him and argues that he needs friends or at least some crime-fighting partners. Due to a crazy mix-up/misunderstanding, Batman accidentally adopts an orphan named Dick Grayson, who desperately wants to become Batman’s sidekick, Robin. Despite his frustration with Robin’s bubbly personality and overenthusiasm, Batman grudgingly admits having a sidekick isn’t such a bad thing, and his life actually might be better off with friends.
“The Lego Batman Movie” is very much in the same vein as “The Lego Movie.” There’s a lot of frenetic, wacky action in these films, and the screen is an explosion of color and moving parts. While all this stimulation can occasionally get a bit overwhelming, it’s tough not to fall under the spell of these delightfully silly movies.
Kids will enjoy watching Lego characters brought to life, but there’s plenty for adults to enjoy here too, including jokes about all of Batman’s past incarnations (expect to see some “Bam!” and “Pow!” word bubbles on the screen). There are also jabs about the Justice League, the Suicide Squad, and Marvel superheroes. As with “The Lego Movie,” you’ll see plenty of references to other films and TV shows, including “Lord of the Rings,” “Harry Potter,” and a certain British timelord’s archenemies.
The voice acting is top-notch, with Arnett playing on Christian Bale’s signature growl in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy. The film sends up Batman’s persona as a loner vigilante; Lego Batman may take himself too seriously, but the film certainly doesn’t. Arnett’s “Arrested Development” co-star Michael Cera is a good foil as the over-eager Robin, and Ralph Fiennes brings a dry wit to the long-suffering butler Alfred. I also enjoyed Zach Galifianakis’ take on the Joker, who’s desperate for Batman’s attention and deeply hurt when Batman won’t admit Joker is his greatest enemy.
“The Lego Batman Movie” is fast-paced and entertaining, though it is fair to say it ultimately isn’t quite as creative or inventive as the “The Lego Movie” was. By the end of the movie I was feeling a slight case of “too much of a good thing,” and the film’s message about the importance of family and friendship felt a little too heavy-handed.
Still, this is a clever, funny film that should be a hit with anyone who loved Batman in the original “Lego Movie,” and it’s actually the best DC Comics movie we’ve had in a while. Your move, “Justice League!”