THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan
"THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE"
Batman has been a staple in the world of the LEGO building bricks for a while. There are more than a few really cool sets centered around the character. That's why he had a memorable supporting role in The LEGO Movie. That film is one of the most clever and original animated features of the modern era. Now, its spinoff, The LEGO Batman Movie, gives the Dark Knight his own full-length adventure. Regardless of your age, gender, or other defining characteristics, if you are even remotely interested in Batman, you can have a grand old time at this funny, charming picture.
Batman (voiced again by Will Arnett) is his usual moody, vigilante self when a number of problems arise. First, the new police commissioner, Barbara Gordon (Rosario Dawson), no longer wants him to work on his own. She pushes for a more compliant Batman who will work in conjunction with law enforcement. Second, he inadvertently adopts an overly-enthusiastic young orphan named Dick Grayson (Michael Cera). Batman has to learn to cooperate with Barbara and accept Dick's desire to be his “Robin” after the Joker (Zach Galifianakis) unleashes a slew of famous supervillains – including Sauron from The Lord of the Rings and Godzilla – from a space prison.
The LEGO Batman Movie has an insane number of Batman-related jokes. The '60s TV show and all previous big-screen incarnations of the character are fodder for gags, puns, and meta references. Some are overt, others more subtle. The more you know about the Dark Knight, the more of them you'll get. Thinking about how much time it must have taken to come up with them is as mind-boggling as it is amusing to behold.
Like The LEGO Movie, the visual style here is reminscent of a child's building block set come to life. Everything is made of LEGO and looks as though you could make it yourself at home, provided you had access to millions of the little bricks. That's a vital element of the film's appeal. There's a palpable sense of wonder for anyone who ever played with LEGO as a kid -- or currently plays with them as a parent. Fostering imagination has always been the company's objective. The LEGO Batman Movie crucially feels just like the kind of adventure a child would dream up during an afternoon of play.
Those qualities are sufficient to make this a terrific family film. What really sweetens the deal, though, is that it's also a legitimately great Batman story. Although largely played for laughs, The LEGO Batman Movie really understands the character's long-standing desire for isolation and control. With that in mind, the plot shows how he softens up, coming to recognize that while he can rid Gotham of crime all on his own, it's not necessarily a good idea for him to do so. Batman learns to open himself up and to accept help. Going this direction with the character proves to be a brilliant choice.
Will Arnett is hilarious as the brooding crimefighter, as is Michael Cera, portraying the incessantly peppy Robin. A host of other stars provide the voices of the familiar supporting characters, which include Bane, Superman, Green Lantern, Harley Quinn, and more.
Because we've already had The LEGO Movie, the sense of LEGO-world-come-to-life discovery may not be there as strongly this time, but that's an extremely minuscule point. The LEGO Batman Movie is overwhelmingly a joy to watch. Every second is packed with visual creativity, humor, and heart.
( 1/2 out of four)
The LEGO Batman Movie is rated PG for rude humor and some action. The running time is 1 hour and 44 minutes.
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