THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan
"LEGO DC SUPER HEROES: JUSTICE LEAGUE: GOTHAM CITY BREAKOUT"
The LEGO brand has done a phenomenal job of expanding its reach in the last few years. They've obtained the licenses to make sets connected to everything from Ghostbusters to Star Wars to Jurassic Park. They also have both Marvel and DC. Their videogames, including the recent LEGO Dimensions, have been best-sellers. The company has produced a blockbuster film (The LEGO Movie), plus a series of made-for-video animated superhero movies. The latest of these is LEGO DC Comics Super Heroes: Justice League: Gotham City Breakout, available on Digital HD, DVD, and Blu-ray July 12.
The story finds Batman stressed out from fighting so much crime in Gotham City. His colleagues, Batgirl and Nightwing, convince him to take a vacation. He does, but still can't escape trouble. The Dark Knight discovers that Deathstroke has launched a heinous scheme to create an unstoppable army that, when unleashed, will generate large-scale destruction. Meanwhile, Superman has been left to care for Gotham in Batman's absence. The Joker tricks him into releasing the city's most ruthless villains, including Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy. Together with Cyborg and Wonder Woman, the Man of Steel has to round everyone back up before Batman returns.
One of the key reasons these LEGO movies (which also include Attack of the Legion of Doom and Lego Batman: The Movie) work is that the animation stays very true to the look and feel of the popular bricks. Everything in the worlds depicted are made from LEGO, which helps to fuel the creativity of young viewers, who could build things very similar to what they see onscreen. That sense of playfulness is perfectly in line with the enduring appeal of LEGO toys. Gotham City Breakout is beautifully animated in this regard. It's bright, colorful, and reminiscent of the building bricks your child has at home. (Or maybe it's you who owns them. Totally understandable.)
The other key quality is humor, and the movie scores on this count, too. The LEGO pictures specialize in presenting humorous versions of these superheroes. Batman, for example, is tightly-wound to a fault. Superman getting placed into a situation he can't handle is also effectively played for laughs. At one point, he tells Batman that Gotham's baddies are far weirder than what he normally encounters in Metropolis. The creatures Deathstroke recruits to do his bidding are among the comic high points, as they behave in threatening ways despite being fundamentally goofy. Even the action scenes are done with wit, having been designed the way a child might make his toys interact.
Gotham City Breakout feels a little too long, even at 78 minutes. The ending is a bit belabored, which could lead to restlessness among some kids. Movies of this sort are best at just over an hour, so they can maximize their punch. A complete lack of bonus features on the Blu-Ray is also disappointing. Nonetheless, there's enough great animation, goofball humor, and overall entertainment value to compensate. LEGO and DC Comics have produced another fine example of synergy, taking two cool things and combining them in a really pleasurable, family-friendly way.
( out of four)
LEGO DC Comics Super Heroes: Justice League: Gotham City Breakout is unrated, but contains mild comic action/violence. The running time is 1 hour and 18 minutes.
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