The funny thing about The Lego Batman Movie (and there’s a ton you’ll find gut-bustingly funny) is that out of all the elements it satirizes, it’s Batman himself that becomes the biggest target, and deservedly so. Personally, it’s always been a source of bemusement that fans take the growling cloaked character with pointy ears so seriously, but now there’s a Batman movie – admittedly, one built from Legos – that approaches the Dark Knight in a way that it should; as a source of comical fun. As new police commissioner, Barbara Gordon (Rosario Dawson) states, “We don’t need an unsupervised man… in a Halloween costume.”
“Black,” begins the deep-throated, gravelly voice-over of Batman (Will Arnett). It’s the beginning of the film, and the widescreen image before us that seems to last a lot longer than it should, is nothing but black. Then the narration continues. “All important movies start with a black screen.”
Hot on the heels of the surprisingly successful The Lego Movie from two years ago, The Lego Batman Movie takes what worked and puts it on a wider screen. It remains a family film, yet the younger set, while thrilled at the color and the action and the sight of their Lego pieces coming to life in a way they had always imagined they would, might wonder exactly what it is that mom and dad are laughing at, and so hard. When an over-eager Robin, Boy Wonder (Michael Cera) firsts meets Batman, he introduces himself as Richard Grayson, adding, “But the kids at the orphanage call me Dick.” “Children can be so cruel,” responds Batman.
Among all the mayhem, the lightning fast action, the non-stop zingers, and the “unusually complicated thing” attached to a power plant that’s about to blow up, there is a story, and it’s a personal one. Batman needs to find himself and learn the importance of family, friendship, and what it’s like to work as a team. His faithful butler, Alfred (Ralph Fiennes), noticing that Batman tends to brood and stare at length at the portrait of his deceased parents, attempts to help his sadly orphaned, winged-master, pointing out, with quick-as-a flash images from all the previous Batman films, that he’s gone through similar phases in 2016, 2012, 2008, 2005, 1997, 1995, 1992, 1989, plus that Adam West one in 1966, or as Alfred calls it, “A weird one.”
Like The Lego Movie, zingers and quotable one-liners come at you faster than the flying Batplane. Don’t be surprised if after the movie on the ride home your kids will be repeatedly chanting “Ironman Sucks!” from the backseat. It’s the password to the Batcave. But there’s more to the humor than just lightning-speed asides. When Batman arrives home and asks his computer if there’s any mail, it tells him that there’s a certificate from Bed, Bath and Beyond which expires in two weeks, adding helpfully, “But I’ve heard that some stores will honor it beyond its expiratory date.” Plus, just before a fist-fight, with another comical nod to those Bang! Zap! and Ka-Pow! Adam West days, Batman declares, “We’re gonna punch those guys so hard, words describing their impact are going to spontaneously materialize.”
Even though the younger set, for whom the film is really aimed, will disagree, older audiences may find the movie runs too long. The first forty-five minutes is non-stop, laugh-out-louder-than-you’ve-laughed-in-a-long-time funny, then a lull settles in. It’s not that the action or the zippy jokes slow down – the film never stops – it’s the fatigue of overload. After another dazzling, spectacular action sequence where Batman wins the day and you think it’s probably over, the film continues with more for another twenty minutes or so.
But that first half where DC is described as the house that Batman built and where the caped crusader spends his evenings watching Jerry Maquire on his private screen while laughing hysterically as Tom Cruise tells Renee Zellweger, “You complete me,” is priceless. Be prepared for guts to be busted.
MPAA Rating: PG Length: 106 Minutes Overall Rating: 7 (out of 10)