REVIEW: 'The Lego Batman Movie' - KAPOW! - pulls no punches
The Lego Batman Movie is another vehicle for The Lego Group – a.k.a. Danish corporation Lego A/S, worth approximately $15 billion – to sell more of its (admittedly excellent) building block toys, but unlike other previous film franchises that were made solely to sell ancillary products, it’s not clumsy. It’s a clever film that has earned the rare distinction of being both a cash cow and a genuinely entertaining 106-minute commercial.
This is the most meta Batman film yet, and I’m not even sure the numerous lists and videos have covered all of the Easter eggs. (Just Google it). The film is a parody and no previous iteration of DC’s most popular character is safe from the occasional jab, and as Batman’s dear butler Alfred (Ralph Fiennes) points out, this is the ninth film since Tim Burton’s Batman in which Batman (Will Arnett) struggles with his loneliness.
After losing his parents, this sarcastic, caustic and deeply-flawed Batman has denied himself relationships with other people, literally spitting water at the thought of having to cooperate with the Gotham Police and new commissioner Barbara Gordon (Rosario Dawson). He even dismisses his traditional arch nemesis in one of the most heart-breaking break-ups in cinematic history, telling the Joker (Zach Galifiniakis) that there is no “us,” and the scene gets progressively funnier and funnier when the Joker's face gets progressively sadder and sadder upon realizing his raison d'être is severely diminished because, well, who else is the Joker going to torment?
Lego Batman moves at a pretty quick pace - almost too quick - and manages to accomplish quite a bit. As established in The Lego Movie, which shares the same universe, Batman is a “Master Builder,” and part of the fun is watching him take apart buildings and fashioning the bricks into all sorts of zany vehicles. It certainly tries to be as ridiculous as it can be, and that’s no more evident than relegating the usual villains – including Catwoman (Zoe Kravitz), Riddler (Conan O'Brien), Poison Ivy (Riki Lindhome), Clayface (Kate Miccuci), Two-Face (Billy Dee Williams, reprising his role from Batman) – and even the most obscure – including Crazy Quilt, the Eraser, Calendar Man, Polka Dot Man and the Condiment King – to cameos.
Instead, the climax involves the Joker using a projector to open up a portal and unleash a new set of eclectic villains trapped inside Superman’s Phantom Zone: Voldemort (Eddie Izzard, and ironically Fiennes' character in the Harry Potter films), Agent Smith, the Wicked Witch of the West and her flying monkeys, a team of Daleks, the Eye of Sauron and the Kraken.
To defeat the Joker, Batman must team up with his newly adopted son Richard Grayson (Michael Cera, and there’s a Dick joke in there that the movie absolutely nails), Alfred and Barbara, who really serves as the moral compass of the entire film and questions if all of Batman’s “heroics” have done Gotham any good when things don’t seem to be getting any better, and also why Batman can call her “Batgirl” when she can’t call him “Batboy” – a question that is both hilarious, because the blatant sexism (ageism?) is rarely pointed out, and provocative, because feminism and equality have never been more front and center in public forums.
It’s a fun, harmless romp, and about what you’d expect out of a film that’s aimed at a pretty wide demographic – there’s laughs, there’s a fairly standard plot with some big Lego explosions, and there's a nice little moral to go with its happy ending. Lego’s next film will be based on its popular Ninjago line, and – dare I say it? – well on its way to creating the best cinematic universe audiences have ever seen.
The Lego Batman Movie gets three stars out of four.