I think it’s safe to say that 2014’s “The Lego Movie” was a ground-breaking achievement for the plastic toy building block film genre. It was a hysterical and all-around unique animated feature that captured audiences with its gorgeous animation, sharp humor, and surprisingly big heart. It also incorporated a host of fun characters none more heralded than the Dark Knight himself.
Captivating cinema history aside “The Lego Batman Movie” is a spinoff that cashes in on the wildly positive reaction to the previous film’s Batman character. It features the same sense of humor but with (obviously) a more Batman-centric flavor. It steadily riffs on the dark, brooding tone of the many Batman films. It has a ton of fun playing with Batman’s extensive rogue gallery, even goofy obscure villains that comic fans are sure to find hilarious. It also spoofs the superhero genre in general. And with so many comical targets it’s amazing how many of them they hit dead-center.
After a stellar supporting spot in “The Lego Movie” Will Arnett returns as the titular title character. His story is pretty familiar. Burdened by the pain of his parents’ murder, Batman finds sanctuary in crime-fighting, cool gadgetry, and alone-time in his dark, moody estate. Along the way we meet his colorful array of ‘acquaintances’ – Commisioner Gordon (Hector Elizondo), his daughter Barbara (Rosario Dawson), and of course Batman’s faithful butler Alfred (voiced by the soothingly empathetic Ralph Fiennes).
When Batman unknowingly hurts the feelings of the fragile Joker (Zach Galifianakis) by denying him the title of arch-villain, the Clown Prince of Crime (I’ve always loved that nickname) sets out for the ultimate revenge. Bats has to decide whether he can stop him alone or go against his style and actually seek the help of others. Along the way he gets another lesson in togetherness in the form of an energetic young orphan named Robin (Michael Cera).
Five writers combined to put together this story that is often too hyperactive for its own good. It’s not that they offer a barrage of jokes. It’s that the writing team, along with director Chris McKay, give them no breathing room whatsoever. The onslaught of gags can be relentless sometimes to the point of making them impossible to follow. It’s a shame because the movie has some big laughs (and I do mean BIG). I can’t help but wonder how many I missed simply because the filmmakers kept things constantly moving at 100 mph.
The same can be said for the action. Once again the animation is gorgeous and the Lego aesthetic still feels fresh and unique. But for every great action sequence (and there are a ton) you get one that is far too wild and frantic. Ultimately the film’s rambunctious pacing wore me down, not enough to ruin the movie but definitely enough to temper my enjoyment. I found myself checking out in the final act. But I still think the film has enough going for it to recommend and if you’re able to stay focused you will undoubtedly have fun with it. Just prepare yourselves with a few cups of coffee before heading in. That should help.
VERDICT – 3 STARS