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‘The LEGO Batman Movie’ (review)

Produced by Dan Lin, Roy Lee,
Phil Lord, Christopher Miller
Screenplay by Seth Grahame-Smith,
Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers,
|Jared Stern, John Whittington
Story by Seth Grahame-Smith
Based on Batman by Bob Kane and Bill Finger,
Lego Construction Toys
Directed by Chris McKay
Starring Will Arnett, Zach Galifianakis,
Michael Cera, Rosario Dawson, Ralph Fiennes

LEGO Batman is back and with even less parents than the last time!

That’s not exactly true, Batman (Will Arnett) has surrogate father Alfred (Ralph Fiennes) by his side and his trusty ward Robin (Michael Cera) this time around for a true Batman Family adventure.

Commissioner Barbara Gordon aka Batgirl (Rosario Dawson) rounds out the good guy cast.

Batman’s nemesis? Of course it is The Joker (Zach Galifianakis) and a slew of familiar rogues.

Robot Chicken veteran Chris McKay directs this hilarious animated feature that bridges the gap between the animated LEGO DC Universe and 2014’s The LEGO Movie.

The LEGO Batman Movie, while obviously riding the success of the first film, also sets itself apart and is more than a sequel. Primarily basing itself in DC locations Gotham and The Phantom Zone, this is a decidedly DC Comics Batman movie. When rattling off a list of super villains in his cadre: Bane, Clayface, Two-Face, Riddler, The Joker is asked if he was making some of them up! Maybe he was, but this movie does introduce Condiment Man to LEGO canon, armed with both a Ketchup and a Mustard gun! OOOH, it stains!

I could tell by the laughter of kids of all ages in the screening that this movie will be a hit. Arnett’s sardonic tones as Batman carry the jokes but also make him more of a hero than he was in The LEGO Movie. Using character development and a clever twist to the “Batman and Joker need each other” trope, the story kicks off as Joker is getting Bats to commit to him as his one true enemy. LEGO Batman insists that he doesn’t need anyone, and he doesn’t “Do” relationships, even one as adversarial as having an arch enemy! This ticks of Joker, so the madman hatches a master plan to win his way into the Dark Knight’s heart with Harley Quinn (Jenny Slate) by his side.

Cera is a brilliant, funny and goofy Robin, tapping into his George Michael voice at times. The toys and builds in the Batcave are over the top, ranging from the Batwing all the way up to Bat Space Shuttle. Pennyworth plays the roll of both parents to Bruce, locking him out of his Batcomputer but also leaving dinner for him after a hard night out fighting Joker.

The cameos are off the charts, and as Joker says, “Probably worth the Google”. From Billy Dee Williams FINALLY Getting to play Two-Face, Doug Benson doing his best Tom Hardy impression as Bane, Zoë Kravitz as Catwoman and so many more. As you can expect from these movies, the Easter Eggs are deep cuts and plenty. Too many to mention in fact, but my favorite has to be the author of the book Alfred is reading about taming your kid, written by Dr. Bartholomew Wolper. You may remember Wolper as the doctor who cured Joker in Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns. Well played, The LEGO Batman Movie, well played.

Batman and Robin crash the Justice League 57th anniversary party (that Batman wasn’t invited to) at Superman’s Fortress of Solitude to steal The Phantom Zone Projector. When Bats sends Joker there, he’s met by a 2 x 4 brick named Phyllis (Ellie Kemper, TV’s Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt) and a multi-property gang of bad guys that includes Voldemort (Eddie Izzard), Sauron (Jemaine Clement), and The Gremlins! While obviously playing in the DC/Warner properties, it was great fun to see the mashup of Big Bads. One bonus jab across the street: a clever swipe at Iron Man’s buddy James Rhodes’ computer password!

This feels like an entirely different movie than a sequel to The LEGO Movie. With no live-action elements implied plus joke after joke and non-stop action, it did have a bit more to offer. Focusing on familiar characters in Gotham, and having Batman use his Master Builder skill set to get out of binds throughout the movie was greatly satisfying. The tone of LEGO Batman lent itself to an editing pace more aligned to a long television episode. McKay was able to bring what we love in Robot Chicken to the big screen by steering the ship the way he did. And by having Joker take over the Batcave, he can quite literally use all the toys in the DC toybox!

This movie is for everyone, with quite a few nods (more than enough) to our geeky Batman-loving friends and continuity. Even Batman ’66 shows up in a surprising Batusi cameo. Arnett’s Batman is as funny as his Arrested Development character with even more hubris.

Sign me up for more LEGO movies! I was already sold, but Batman really sweetened the deal.

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