Let’s take a second to think about how ridiculous it is that this film is happening. It’s amazing enough that this is the second LEGO branded film that’s being released in the space of a few years, but it’s also starring Batman, a character that the movie world hasn’t always been able to get right.
That being said, The Lego Movie was one of the most surprisingly good films of recent years, and Will Arnett’s Batman was one of the stand out characters in that film. Add to that the fact that Warner Bros. recent run of DC comics adaptations haven’t all been critically well received, and suddenly the the need for a surefire hit in the form of The LEGO Batman Movie makes a lot more sense.
After once again saving Gotham City from some of his most notorious villains, Batman (Will Arnett) is faced with a new challenge – parental responsibility. When he accidentally adopts orphan Dick Grayson (Michael Cera), he suddenly finds that balancing a family life with fighting crime isn’t that easy.
This film’s strongest point by far is the script. It’s ultra lean, with every moment either being used to progress the story further, or make a joke, the vast majority of which land, and land hard. The humour here is frequently laugh out loud funny, and it ranges from classic moments of slapstick, to surprisingly adult, self referential jokes, to witty recurring moments of wordplay. There’s something here for everyone to find funny.
This film suggests that every Batman film, comic and TV series ever made is in continuity, and does this in not only a funny way, but in some surprisingly clever ways too. For example, the Gotham City we see starts the film looking like it’s straight out of Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman, but ends the film looking like a replica of Chicago, the city used as Gotham in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight trilogy.
Something else I really appreciated was the fact that nothing was off the table, by which I mean if there was a joke to be made, they would make it. Whether this means poking fun at 2016’s Suicide Squad (a film I thought was too recent to make it in), joking at the expense of the studio behind the film, or doing something completely inappropriate at a supposedly serious moment.
Helping make this film so funny is a strong performance from the voice cast. Will Arnett is of course perfectly arrogant as a Batman who buys into his own hype, Michael Cera’s trademark nervous and innocent voice brilliantly captures the ridiculousness of the character Robin, and Ralph Fiennes plays butler Alfred just straight enough to hold all of the crazy characters together. There are easily ten other people I could mention, but I’m sure you get the idea.
If I had to criticize this film, I would say that some of the jokes rely on having prior knowledge of Batman in popular culture, and people who haven’t had as much exposure to Batman’s various incarnations may not understand everything that’s going on. That being said, this is never detrimental to the story, only to a few of the jokes, which come at you so quickly that they would probably be gone by the time you realise you didn’t get it.