Three years after stealing the show in The Lego Movie Will Arnett is back as the Caped Crusader in Lego form, this time taking center stage in as conspicuous a manner as is humanly possible. “Bats” is in the full-blown moody teenager with too much money persona, he’s been pretending he isn’t all these years, with his faithful butler and surrogate papa, Alfred (in a cracking turn by Ralph Fiennes). Now he’s battling his arch-nemesis, The Joker (Zach Galifianakis) and an assorted host of other villains both from Batman Lore and anywhere else Lego’s limitless commercial reach has grasped.
In many ways, The Lego Batman movie feels less like a spin-off in the Lego film franchise but rather an insurgent into the Batman one (both franchises are owned by Warner Brothers). Smashing its way like the world’s loudest, obnoxious and funniest marching band right into the middle of last year’s leery, murky and monotonous parades by messrs Ayer and Snyder.
Not that this is a criticism though. Such was the shallow, depressing, bamboozling, life-threatening tedium to Batman vs Superman and Suicide Squad that has made the Lego iteration on the Dark Knight so welcome.
It is a film that both parodies and pays homage to Batman’s history, at one point directly referencing all the previous big screen incarnations (rather brilliantly in Lego form) before going all the way back to the thoroughly sixties and utterly bananas Adam West days. It paid careful homage to the character’s folklore while mocking the recent tendency for Warner Brother’s superhero films to become turgid, joyless and nonsensical cack.
Attached to this is the film’s willingness to send Lego’s own commercial ubiquitousness by introducing a plethora of pop-culture references and villains from other films (although also celebrating the brand’s ability to evolve). Voldemort (rather brilliantly not voiced by Fiennes but Eddie Izzard), The Kraken, King Kong and Sauron (Jermaine Clement) are all on hand to assistant the Joker is his latest scheme to win Batman’s hatred/affection. You wonder why Zack Snyder was too stupid to work out that the Clown Prince of Crime is the most meaningful relationship Batman has.
Don’t get me wrong, the film is about as subtle as a punch in the face but that lack of subtlety doesn’t mean it isn’t enjoyable. It is a frenetic, fast-talking, frenzy of colour and comedy. Not all of the comedy nails its mark but such is the numeracy of the jokes that should something fall flat, another joke, song or set-piece will swoop in 5 seconds later to salvage the day.
The film also retains the visual charms of its predecessor. Director Chris McKay (moving up from editor and animation director in the Lego Movie) retains the superb CGI that perfectly mimics stop motion animation with Lego. It makes it feel real, including in the hilarious climax.
The voice cast largely does sterling work with Michael Cera stealing the show as Robin/Dick Grayson, Rosario Dawson playing the smart person surrounded by idiots and Fiennes as a superbly sarcastic Alfred Pennyworth.
Overall The Lego Batman Movie lacks the precision humor and writing of The Lego Movie. It is far more scattergun and tries a little too hard which at times can be more than a little patience testing. Nevertheless, McKay and producers Phil Lord and Christopher Miller deliver everything you could possibly want from this film. It isn’t a masterpiece but it is a bloody, brilliant fun and there isn’t much wrong with that.