Main cast: Will Arnett (Bruce Wayne/Batman), Zach Galifianakis (Joker), Michael Cera (Dick Grayson/Robin), Rosario Dawson (Barbara Gordon), Ralph Fiennes (Alfred Pennyworth), Jenny Slate (Harley Quinn), and Siri (Batcomputer)
Director: Chris McKay
The LEGO Batman Movie is basically a 100-minute or so long commercial for a new LEGO line. It is supposed to be based on a story by Seth Grahame-Smith, but let’s face it, that guy doesn’t do stories from scratch as much as he just slaps things on established works in the name of “lampoon”, and indeed, this one is supposed to be a lampoon. But the end result is basically a LEGO advertisement voiced over by someone reading out loud entries from TVTropes.
Basically, we have Batman, who only finds joy in beating Joker and other criminals when he’s not all alone in his cavernous island mansion eating the same dish every day and watching romantic comedies on the big screen. He’s too big and cool for feelings, you know, and he’s also insufferably egotistical and vain. His determination to be a lone wolf too cool for human attachments will be truly tested when the Joker decides to surrender himself and all his henchmen to the authorities, and our hero soon finds himself a rebel without a cause. The new Police Commissioner, Barbara Gordon, wants Batman and the local authorities to work together, but Batman balks at the very idea. At any rate, in order to prove to Gotham City that Batman is still a necessary fixture in town, Batman has his unwanted sidekick Robin steal a Phantom Zone Projector from Superman’s Fortress of Solitude (learning in the process that the Justice League crew has thrown a party there without inviting him) and use it to send Joker there.
That is Joker’s plan all along. Fed up with Batman’s refusal to reciprocate his affections and declare Joker as his best enemy ever, Joker decides that he needs an upgrade from his usual loser henchmen to get Batman to really take him seriously. The Phantom Zone is the prison to some of the worst criminals ever – Sauron, Voldemort, that guy from The Matrix trilogy, the gremlins, King Kong, Godzilla, “British robots” (copyright issues, don’t ask), etc – and Joker enlists them in a break-out to come to Gotham City and cause mayhem.
The script pokes fun of the conventions usually associated with Batman stuff, from homoerotic tensions between Batman and Robin as well as Joker to the over the top brooding nature of Batman. It also pays some cheeky homage to the camp of the old Batman TV series of the 1960s, while at the same time allowing Barbara Gordon to play the feisty female lead character who also kicks some rear ends in her own right. Everything is within the safe boundaries of G-rated wholesomeness, however, with only subtle winks and nudges for the adults in the audience. For a long time, the humor works, although there is nothing particularly inventive about the humor. There is a “been there, done that” feel to the whole thing, although the fun animation and amazing scenery compensate for this considerably.
The movie falters a bit when it starts focusing on psychobabble to help Batman see the light. Again, this is nothing inventive or new, but its rather sober and heavy-handed approach make the whole “been there, done that” feel even more obvious.
I find myself wishing that I can get my hands on some of the set pieces. In fact, while I have a pleasant time watching this movie, I think I’d have a better time putting together the pieces of the new LEGO sets. The Batcave itself is pure Lego pornography, I tell you! As for the movie, save it for a time when you are in the mood for some light afternoon watch kind of thing.