The Lego Batman Movie
Review by Paul Preston
Batman is ripe for satire. Not just general superhero satire, but satire of the Batman himself – the orphaning, the solitude, the butler, the gadgets, the whole deal. After getting a good taste of Batman jokes in 2014’s The Lego Movie, the studio and team behind that film have branched out to give the caped crusader his own adventure. So now we have The Lego Batman Movie. Too much of a good thing?
One of the more impressive things about The Lego Movie was its breakneck pace. It delivered references and jokes at alarming speed. As is a sequel’s way, we get more of the same. Not just hey, this pace is the same, but holy SHIT, there’s a lot flying at me, attempting to one-up the previous film. I will risk sounding like the old man on the porch, but it was too much. Not in that “I was laughing so much, I missed a joke” way, but in a “you’re tiring me out” way. To their credit, if one joke doesn’t hit, there’s another one right behind it, but the whole felt monotonous.
That pace doesn’t allow for many moments to be framed. There are deliberately slow moments, like those early in the film that establish Batman’s loneliness in Wanye Manor (those bits deliver some of the best laughs of the film – he plays guitar at one point for no real reason), but the movie doesn’t stop to take a breath for any other moments. I was just such a huge The Lego Movie fan and there’s no moment in this quite like when that film goes meta. Instead, Batman’s ego is funny, but becomes repetitive when it’s not a bit in a larger film and his lesson-learning about family is delivered up with no real surprises.
Will Arnett returns to voice The Dark Knight and again knocks it out of the park, but this version of The Joker is the most boring I’ve seen. There is always so much action going on between he and Batman, there’s no time for a relationship out of which you could soak some real jokes. And there’s a missed opportunity in getting Zach Galifianakis to voice The Joker yet getting no distinct voice characteristics out of the character.
Hmmm…(re-reading)…yeah, seems I’m pretty down on this. There are some great jokes about the history of Batman. They goof on every single version that’s ever been, from Adam West to Tim Burton to Joel Schumacher to Christian Bale. The plot is about Batman fighting pretty much every villain in his mythology, so if you want deep references (and goofing on deep references), you got it. Also, he grows close to and adopts Robin, voiced by Michael Cera, who is so wonderfully childish, he counters Batman’s gruffness to great comic effect.
Perhaps it’s swapping out The Lego Movie directors Chris Miller and Phil Lord for Robot Chicken’s Chris McKay that makes this sequel feel beholden to manic action, and less to character and breathing room. The original had more of a balance, and worked more for me.
Directed by: Chris McKay
Release Date: December 2, 2016
Run Time: 104 Minutes
Distributor: Warner Brother Pictures