It didn't matter what the clickbait critics were saying, I was going to see LEGO Batman no matter what. I've been a huge fan of LEGO since I was a little kid and I still have all of my original sets and intend to keep collecting as an adult. I loved The LEGO Movie and was ready for more of the same stuff with this film.
To put it simply, The LEGO Batman Movie is the most hilariously ridiculous tribute to the Batman franchise that I have ever seen. There's so much in this movie for Batman fans and adults that get the humor that you can totally watch this movie with your son or daughter and end up laughing much, much more than they do.
I've always found that some of the best kids movies and TV shows are ones that find a way to be funny for both adolescent and adult audiences, enough to the point that watching it as a child will be funny and entertaining enough, but then when you get older and watch it again as an adult, it's funny for an entirely different set of reasons and you experience it in a whole new light. Suddenly you get the jokes that were right in front of you but you didn't understand when you were younger. You've seen the things that it references so now you understand why certain things happened that you thought looked cool but you didn't really understand.
That's what The LEGO Batman Movie does, and it's awesome.
The plot is pretty simple: Batman, voiced by Will Arnett is the hero of Gotham City and no matter what, he works alone. He does all the work, calls all the shots and takes all of the credit by himself. So when it's suggested that he no longer work alone, either by working directly with the police or taking in his new ward Dick Grayson, voiced by Michael Cera, he resists the idea completely, until The Joker unleashes a diabolical new plan to destroy Gotham City and the Caped Crusader has to re-evaluate how he operates completely.
Like The LEGO Movie, LEGO Batman has a soul to it and a solid message about Batman's motivations and how he does what he does. There's points in the movie where his very methodology that fans have come to know and appreciate from him in the comics and on the big and small screens is deliberately called into question and Arnett's Batman hilariously stumbles his way through an answer in the most macho way he could possibly think of. It's clever, intriguing and heartwarming all at the same time in a crazy sense.
The rest of the voice cast is solid in support. Zach Galifianakis' Joker is the most kid friendly, mildly benevolent take on the classic villain to this point. Even the Joker in the LEGO Batman video games is technically more devious and deadly than this one, but it works perfectly in highlighting the fan-observed insanity of Batman and Joker's tortured relationship spanning well over 70 years in print and on screen. On some level, you might catch yourself wondering if the Clown Prince of Crime actually does ask himself the same questions about Batman that this Joker does, but in a much more malicious way than shown here for a PG audience.
Rosario Dawson, who has made a name for herself in the comic book adaptation world with her portrayal of Claire Temple in the Marvel Netflix shows, crosses fan lines here to voice Barbara Gordon/Batgirl, in what might be the most authoritatively equal to Batman version of the character we've seen. It serves the plot of the movie well though, as she is the main one that calls Batman's "lone wolf" status into question. The other character that does that is the faithful butler Alfred, voiced by Ralph Fiennes who does a fantastic job in a role fit for an accomplished British actor.
There's three things for certain about this movie that are downright phenomenal. The first is the easter eggs and references. I don't care how big of a Batman fan you are, you WILL lose count of them within the first ten minutes. There are THAT many and they span the entire franchise, all the way back to the early comics. It's outstanding and in some cases mildly or blatantly self-deprecating.
The second is the score. It's REALLY good. Composer Lorne Balfe, who scored the Sherlock Holmes movies directed by Guy Ritchie, Terminator Genesys and a number of video games including Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 and two Assassin's Creed games, does a great job of adding a truly demonstrative sound to the movie that actually makes it feel like a dramatic action film at times. The ridiculousness of what is happening on screen is too great to completely ignore, but there are some emotional beats that Balfe hits well and it adds to the movie's strong heart and soul.
The last is the fourth wall-breaking deconstruction by Arnett's Batman in particular. This is something that we as comic book movie fans saw in Deadpool last year with Ryan Reynolds and while you don't see it as much in The LEGO Batman Movie, when it happens it's absolute gold. One of the great touches of the LEGO movies is their ability to make fun of the reality that the audience inhabits and it's just a stroke of brilliance to call attention to it, thereby making the rest of the ridiculousness work throughout the movie.
At the end of the day, The LEGO Batman Movie is another triumph for the LEGO movie franchise that seems to be just getting started and a hilariously welcome addition to the DC Comics stable of films. Watch it with your kids and don't be even remotely ashamed of the fact that you might just crack up at the jokes a lot more than they do. When they are your age, they'll get it and it'll be funny all over again.
THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE - 5 out of 5 - In theaters, February 10, 2017