Starring the Voices of Will Arnett, Michael Cera, Ralph Fiennes, Rosario Dawson and Zach Galifianakis
Directed by Chris McKay
My Rating: ****½:5
After the surprise critical and commercial success of “The Lego Movie” in 2014, Warner Bros. has released the first of many planned spinoffs in the form of “The Lego Batman Movie.” Adapting both the beloved toy and the DC comic book character, this spinoff provides a fun and family-friendly sendup of the Caped Crusader and his lineage.
The film opens with none other than Batman himself poking fun at the genre conventions of the big-budget comic book movie before a daring fight against the Joker. Yet, he seems reluctant to acknowledge the Joker as his greatest adversary, or take his butler Alfred’s advice to open up to others. As the Joker plans to assemble a rogue’s gallery to bring Gotham City to its knees, Bruce ultimately decides to team with Richard Grayson and Barbara Gordon to combat this threat, taking them under his wings under the pseudonyms of Robin and Batgirl.
As one of many adaptations of DC’s biggest moneymaker, this film is one of the most self-aware takes on the Batman mythos that WB has produced. Will Arnett’s performance as the Dark Knight wonderfully spoofs the bizarre nature of the concept as well as makes great use of his talent in other films and the cult sitcom “Arrested Development.” Michael Cera’s portrayal of Robin captures a level of childlike glee that can resonate with moviegoers of all generations. Zach Galifianakis based his performance of the Joker on Jack Nicholson in Tim Burton’s 1989 blockbuster, complete with a desire to cause chaos and panic simply because he finds it funny. Rosario Dawson’s Barbara Gordon establishes herself as a powerful fighter and skilled policewoman before she becomes Batgirl. Ralph Fiennes’ rendition of Alfred Pennyworth provides a snarky sense of humor and pokes fun at every prior film version from the 1966 Adam West film to last year’s ”Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice.”
The animation is also a delight to behold. While the previous Lego movie reportedly used 15 million bricks in its production, this film has far exceeded that amount. Even though CGI is used for effects such as fire, smoke and water, the attention to detail in this Lego version of Gotham City is astounding. Every brick contributes to a massive landscape, and the little touches shine everywhere. The scuff marks on the canopy of the Batwing are exactly where they would be on the actual model.
One flaw is that the film does have an aura of familiarity for those who have seen previous takes on Batman lore. If you have seen other versions of this story, you will definitely have a solid idea of how the plot unfolds. Still, the film is a major labor of love towards not just Batman, but to Lego and DC comics as a whole. The film is not only rife with cameos from villains such as the Riddler (voice of Conan O’Brien) and Two-Face (voice of Billy Dee Williams), but fellow DC characters like Superman (uproariously voiced by Channing Tatum).
With a host of snazzy action scenes and nifty vehicles, such as the Batmobile and the new Scuttler, “The Lego Batman Movie” is the ideal alternate reality for this day and age. The film’s massive critical and box office success easily paints a promising picture for more spinoff films (“The Lego Ninjago Movie” is on track for September) and continues to prove that even after all the passing years since the big hits of The Dark Knight Trilogy that it’s great to be Batman!
Review by Steven Pryor