Rating: 3.5/4 stars
The unanticipated creativity of 2014’s The Lego Movie shocked everyone — except the children across the world who became even more ensnared by the phenomenon that is Lego.
What at first seemed to be a sort of comeback product-placement-money-grab for the company’s dip in sales over the past few years, The Lego Movie defied expectations and to this date is one of the more surprising films of all time. Not many could have predicted the wit, intelligence, and overall heartfelt message of not being afraid to break boundaries and encouraging yourself and others to be as creative as possible. Despite all of these surprises, it did not come as a jolt when Warner Bros. Pictures announced that in 2017, we would be getting a Lego Batman Movie. Batman was not only a fan-favorite from the original movie, but also one of the most celebrated characters of all time.
Set in Batman’s very own Gotham City, which has recently been declared as “the most crime-ridden city in the world,” newly appointed commissioner Barbara Gordon (Rosario Dawson) has many new plans to rid the streets of Gotham’s organized crime scene, which is slurred with supervillains such as The Joker, Riddler, Clayface, Penguin, Catwoman, Mr. Freeze, and many, many more. However, her new plans don’t bode well for Batman (Will Arnett), Bruce Wayne’s alter-ego, as Gordon wants him to officially team up with Gotham’s police forces. This would require Batman to give up his solitary lifestyle and admit his fear of “being part of a family.” Batman is so focused on caring what others think about him that he never gets a chance to take a step back and process the person he is. Again, this animated feature is shockingly heartfelt and made with care.
There are so many jokes here. So for every joke that may fall flat, there are two or three more that are filled with hilarity and sarcasm, which really set the tone for the film. This is not your typical Batman movie, rather it is a spoof or caricature of the entire character and storyline that surrounds it. Very witty, upbeat, and at times satirical, the jokes hit home for everyone in the audience, while not letting the film take itself too seriously (which is what it pokes fun at about the other Batman films). There are a lot of Batman references and jokes, all of which are funny and never old. They even go back to roast the very early Adam West TV show, which just shows you the determination of providing jokes for the entire audience– rather than just the kids in the theater.
It’s nice to see the success of a spoof movie, as it seems to be a dying genre. So taking this type of film, throwing in Legos and Batman characters that children know and love, and then sending it all off to a wider audience might be risky, but it ultimately pays off.
Making a kid’s movie and acknowledging that is is “just a kid’s movie,” while also providing very mature, needed, and a comprehensible message to everyone, is very hard, but the Lego franchise does it with a form of ease that resembles the craft of the early Pixar films. For me to put The Lego Batman Movie in the same category Up or Cars is very surprising to me, because I walked in having little to no expectations for this film.
They tweaked the characters a bit, as most spoof movies do. They created a friendlier, more upbeat version of Dick Grayson (Michael Cera) that worked very well with the scheme and brand the Lego franchise is trying to make a name for. Similar to the character of Emmet in The Lego Movie, Grayson (we’ll just call him Robin) is funny, carefree, and completely buoyant and optimistic. An orphan, Robin is searching for a family who cares for him and loves him. After meeting his hero, the “best orphan of all time,” Bruce Wayne, he is convinced that Wayne is who he should be with. After being adopted, he suddenly is brought into a world of crime fighting he could have only dream of.
As for Batman, the studio took Justin Bieber, a little Kanye West, and Mariah Carey and smushed them together to make the ultimate ego. His sense of self is so inflated that he keeps track of the number of good idea’s he’s had versus everyone else (Hint: it’s pretty one sided). He raps about how good he is at everything, beatboxes, and constantly puts down everyone for trying to provide assistance. In short, you don’t really want to be anywhere near him. While being rather cavalier, however, he provides the audience with utmost amusement and joy, for the smiles are there from start to finish.
My favorite part of the movie, while also being the funniest, is Zach Galifianakis’ portrayal of the Joker. Joker is back and badder than ever, gathering all of the villains in Gotham and forming a sort of union between them. However, all of this comes to a sudden holt when he learns that Batman doesn’t consider him as his greatest enemy, rather hearing that Batman “fights around.” Parodying on Heath Ledger’s “You complete me” relationship in 2008’s The Dark Knight, Joker and Batman have an almost romantic banter between them, for all Joker wants to hear from Batman are the words, “I hate you,” which I thought was very funny (and extremely clever).
The Lego Batman Movie was somewhat criticized for following some of the same story arcs as The Lego Movie, which at points really does make it harder for it to stand alone. However, it’s filled with laughs and satire, which aren’t just poop-jokes; they’re actually clever, intelligent, and witty to the max, which make The Lego Batman Movie a pleasure to watch. For these reasons, Warner Bros. has got my ticket for The Lego Ninjago Movie this coming September.