Directed by Chris McKay
January 29, 2017 (Dublin) / February 9, 2017 (Denmark) / February 10, 2017 (United States) / March 30, 2017 (Australia)
Batman must deal with the Joker and the usual gang of villains trying to rule Gotham City while also dealing with a child/sidekick that he accidentally adopted. Oops!
The Lego Batman Movie is quite possibly one of the most ridiculous films I have ever seen. Ridiculously entertaining that is. This film operates on screwball cartoon logic. They go for the joke. The humor is more in line with something from the Zuckers or even the old WB shorts than the jokes found in an animated Disney release. I love how they even make jokes about the movie itself. They know what they are making and realize they should not take themselves too seriously.
Reportedly director Chris McKay did indeed draw inspiration from the likes of Airplane! and the Naked Gun films-all ZAZ efforts. It is obvious they have the same or similar comedic sensibilities. Cartoons, by their very nature, can much more easily ignore reality and be funny than live action but all too often play it safe. They do not do that here.
The Lego Batman Movie begins with a ridiculous heist by the Joker which is something you would find in a comic book. I say ridiculous in concept and location in comparison to reality. But it is done in a sill fashion. McGuffin Airlines flight 1138 is a reference to something that is important to the characters but is immaterial to the plot (a McGuffin). “1138” is a reference to the classic George Lucas film THX 1138. The comical explosives being hauled. It is just so silly and sets the tone for the humor to come in the movie.
We also get beat you over the head references to multiple incarnations of Batman starting with the then most recent going all the way back to the 60s series. Heck a few villains specific to that show such as Egghead (portrayed in the 60s series by the legendary Vincent Price) and King Tut (portrayed in the 60s series by Victor Buono) show up in this movie.
Another nod to Batman stuff of the past, specifically the 1989 Batman film, is the casting of Billy Dee Williams here as the voice of the villainous Batman mainstay Two-Face. In the first Michael Keaton Batman movie, Billy Dee Williams was cast as Harvey Dent (Two-Face’s actual identity) with the implication to fans that should the films continue (which they did) he would eventually become the villain Two-Face. But that was not to be. Joel Schumacher recast Harvey Dent with Tommy Lee Jones and I think Williams lost out on a real chance to shine.
The film is built around in part on the implication that in some strange way Batman and Joker (Zach Galifianakis) need each other which is something that has been touched on elsewhere. Here Joker cannot handle the lack of acknowledgment of their rivalry. He feels spurned in much the same way that a child would feel hurt by not getting an “I love you.”
Batman (Will Arnett reprising his role from The Lego Movie) must learn to allow others emotionally into his life. Batman in recent years has been written as an extreme loner unable or unwilling to meaningfully connect with others. Here it is taken to ridiculous heights. Batman is watching relationship comedies alone in his mansion while eating microwaved lobster thermidor and has a weird obsession with keeping his mask on as much as possible and sulking.
Michael Cera voices Robin/Dick Greyson (they even slip in a dick joke here) who is the orphan that is accidentally adopted by Bruce Wayne, and who eventually becomes Batman’s sidekick Robin. He is a wide eyed and earnest naïve kid that has more in common with the Boy Wonder of the 60s than anything recent.
The rest of the core cast is made up of Rosario Dawson as new Gotham City Police Commissioner Barbara Gordon who is replacing retiring Commissioner James Gordon who is voiced by Héctor Elizondo. Ralph Fiennes reprises his role from The Lego Movie 2 of Alfred Pennyworth. Why Fiennes did not also voice Voldemort I do not know. Give the lunacy of the movie I think it would have gone down quite easy with audiences if he did two voices.
The Joker’s plot is to free a whole bunch of villains from The Phantom Zone using Superman’s (Channing Tatum returning) projector and it is quite an odd group. They dig deep into the Lego set property vault here. Or if it is a successful film that Warner Bros. did then it probably makes an appearance here. We have King Kong, the Gremlins, the Wicked Witch of the West along with her Flying Monkeys, the skeletons from Jason and the Argonauts, the Tyrannosaurus rex and a velociraptor from Jurassic Park, Lord Voldemort, Sauron, the shark from Jaws, the Daleks from Doctor Who, the kraken from Clash of the Titans, and even Agent Smith and his clones from The Matrix films to name a good chunk.
After watching it one thing that surprises me is that this film is all CGI. The movie looks as if they went through the trouble of animating Lego pieces. Maybe I am a bit naïve in that aspect but until I looked up a few random facts about this for my own curiosity I had no idea it was all CGI. I am floored by the realism here.
The script by Seth Grahame-Smith, Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Jared Stern, and John Whittington (I think that many people on a story is excessive, but they did something good here) is smart and witty. The jokes are often done with a metaphorical wink and a nod to the audience. Sometimes a literal wink and a nod too. This is a movie that can satisfy adults and their children. The Lego Batman movie has something for everyone.
The Lego Batman movie is a great animated feature. You will laugh and you will enjoy yourself. It is a hilarious and well-done story that you will want to see again. Watch it!