2014’s “The Lego Movie” was a pleasant surprise to most. It is not very often that a film based on toys (usually little more than a cash-grab) can reach such a level of quality and pure entertainment value. This spin-off, “The Lego Batman Movie,” could demand almost equal skepticism, considering it featured a different creative team than “The Lego Movie,” plus the poor track record of franchise spin-off films in general. However, lightning struck twice for Warner Brothers Animation, as “The Lego Batman Movie” features nearly all the humor, fun, and charm of its predecessor.
Batman (Will Arnett, brilliantly reprising his role) is a beloved icon in Gotham City. Despite his satisfaction with his fame and fortune, he can never seem to find real happiness. When he adopts Dick Grayson (Michael Cera) and meets Barbara Gordon (Rosario Dawson), his life changes in ways he was not prepared for. In order to save Gotham from The Joker (Zach Galifianakis), Batman must reconcile his life as crime-fighter with his identity as the billionaire orphan, Bruce Wayne.
“The Lego Batman Movie” is simultaneously a comedy, a superhero movie, and a spoof. For starters, the film looks great, and is a visual treat from start to finish. The action scenes, so to speak, are exciting and creative in their execution. The writing team of the film seems fully aware of the eclectic history of the Batman character, and they gleefully exploit every tone, theme, and plot-line the character has displayed in his 75 year existence. The film offers just about every type of joke you could imagine, including visual gags, Batman/Superhero/Hollywood in-jokes, pop-culture references, and some clever wordplay. None of these fall flat, because they are delivered with such sincerity that one cannot help at least crack a smile.
The spoof movie genre has not had any real credibility or success since 2000’s “Scary Movie.” However, “The Lego Batman Movie” understands that the best spoofs come from a true understanding of—and respect for—the genre which is being spoofed. The filmmakers know that they are parodying superhero films, so they made sure to make a great superhero film in the process. The action, fun, and fast-paced energy of this rivals great modern superhero flicks like “Guardians of The Galaxy” (2014) and “Deadpool” (2016).
The only potential issue this film has is that it is pretty formulaic and predictable plot-wise. It gets a pass in this case, because the script often acknowledges its predictable elements and because there are so many other surprises in both the story and the humor that it does not matter if the ending is a foregone conclusion.
This is 2017’s first great animated film, first great comedy, and first great superhero film all brought together in a single package.
Running time: 144 Minutes
Now showing in theaters