One of the biggest surprises in recent years was The LEGO Movie. Even though the trailers were pretty decent, everyone wrote it off as a movie purely designed to hawk more Lego products. And yet it ended up being one of the funniest movies of the year, combining very irrelevant humour with a genuinely sweet message about family and friendship. Everything certainly was awesome. But one of the cool things the movie did was combine a load of licensed characters in a very amusing way. So it definitely makes sense to spin one off into their own movie and so we have The LEGO Batman Movie.
Batman (Will Arnett, Despicable Me) is doing his usual thing, being a loner and catching bad guys. However in a shock, the Joker (Zach Galifiankis, The Hangover) and the rest of Gotham’s villains decide to hand themselves in and go back to Arhkham Asylum. This leaves Batman frustrated as he has to concentrate on being a parent to the son he accidentally adopted, Dick Grayson (Michael Cera, Juno).
The reason Batman is the one getting a spin-off is because of how good Arnett was in the first LEGO movie. The idea that Batman would be an egomaniac is one that has been done before, most notably in the web series How It Should Have Ended, but Arnett put so much conviction into the role he became one of the most hilarious things in the movie. I’m delighted to report that even though the bulk of the plot is on him now, he is still as delightfully funny as ever. The movie pitches Batman not just as egomaniac but as an attention seeking teenager.
He thinks he is the greatest thing ever but is also very mardy, as seen with his temper tantrums when talking with his butler Alfred (Ralph Fiennes, The Grand Budapest Hotel) and also rather insecure. It makes for very funny scenes as he reacts to other characters trying to rein him and make him act mature, and Arnett owns every single scene with his voice acting. He makes lines that shouldn’t be funny bloody hilarious.
But let’s get to The LEGO Batman Movie proper. While you may think as this is an animated film, this would follow more in the path of Disney films, it actually owes more of a debt to the likes of Young Frankenstein and Airplane. This a parody of Batman, from the silly Adam West show right up until Ben Aflleck’s edgy take. And what’s brilliant is that it comes from a place of love. I’ve always maintained that the best parodies come from people who were big fans of the original product. That’s why parodies such as Epic Movie are as funny as rat gnawing at your testicles while the Family Guy Star Wars specials are the best episodes of that series. One is from a place of bitterness, the other from love.
And you can tell that the people behind this movie properly love Batman, whether it was the campy version from the 60s or the darker character we see in recent efforts. Joker’s villain buddies range from the ones that are well-known such as Bane and Poison Ivy to the bizarre ones such as Condiment Man. Yes, there was a villain called Condiment Man and he appeared in the comics at some point. Life is amazing. There’s also little jabs at the movies, with the Joker commenting that his plan in the movie is much better than the two boats. If you are a Batman fan, you’ll love all the little references that they pack in.
Now let’s talk about the humour when it is not referencing itself. Warner Bros has made a few films since restarting their animated movies division and they tend to share the same sense of humour. Lots of fast paced animation with quickfire jokes, the idea being that even if you don’t laugh at one joke another will be by in a few seconds that should make you titter at least. And if the movie does line a few up in a row that work, you’ll be rolling out of your seat laughing. In terms of the hit and miss ratio for this film, it mostly hits. Yeah, some jokes don’t work and frustratingly some of the longer jokes occupy that zone, but the ones that do knock it out of the park. This is a very funny movie to be sure.
My major issue with The LEGO Batman Movie though is the delivery of the message. The idea itself is good, the fact you can’t do everything on your own and you need your friends to help you, so you better not push them away. However while the film builds this message up quite well, it ruins it in the final third. Obviously I can’t spoil it too much as other than this, the finale is well done and rather amusing at that, but basically Batman learns that message very early on, which is a nice surprise. Then he suddenly unlearns it, just to he can learn it again at the end. This feels like an absolute waste of time and just a way to pad the movie out.
But even with that, The LEGO Batman Movie is just a delight. The kids will get an action packed fast paced animation film that is completely unafraid to be very childish and get on their level while the adults get one of the best parody movies in recent years, something with an obvious love for Batman but also the ability to realise how ridiculous the franchise has been. I don’t think it is for everyone, the amount of energy on screen will irritate some, but for me, this is a great way to have fun at the most self-important superhero we’ve had in the last decade.
The LEGO Batman Movie is a great time.