By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)
With Batman becoming such a delightfully comedic, breakout character from The Lego Movie, it makes perfect sense that the Warner Animation Group gave him his own spin-off movie. And with actor Will Arnett delivering an exceptional voice performance as the Dark Knight in The Lego Movie, I’m sure the movie’s producers made sure they could secure a commitment from him to reprise the role. These plans certainly have paid off well, as The Lego Batman Movie, though not as extraordinary as its predecessor, is a wonderfully fun and entertaining film that has much to offer family members of all ages.
In Gotham City, Batman/Bruce Wayne (Will Arnett) has worked as a solo crime fighter for a long time and prefers to work this way, save for the occasional assistance of his butler/foster parent Alfred Pennyworth (Ralph Fiennes). Having lost his parents as a child, Batman has a fear of emotional attachments, as he cannot handle losing any more loved ones. When his archenemy The Joker (Zach Galifianakis) sets into motion his most diabolical plot, Batman must conquer his fear and work with his new ward Dick Grayson/Robin (Michael Cera) and the new Police Commissioner, Barbara Gordon (Rosario Dawson), to save the city.
Written by Seth Grahame-Smith, Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Jared Stern, John Whittington, and directed by Chris McKay (Robot Chicken), The Lego Batman Movie delivers plenty of hearty laughs and teaches a valuable lesson to its audiences. The moral of the story is one that is tried, true and has already been told many times in other stories and movies, but gets presented with such a gleeful sense of humor and with an enjoyable sense of self-parody. The humor dares to go over-the-top in moments and it all works well. A few of the gags come close to wearing out their welcomes, but thankfully, never go beyond that level.
In addition to the brilliant writing and solid direction, the voice cast are the ones that really sell this movie. The film features an impressive lineup that includes Jenny Slate, Jason Mantzoukas, Conan O’Brien, Doug Benson, Billy Dee Williams, Zoë Kravitz, Kate Micucci, Rikki Lindholm, Eddie Izzard, and more. I was quite pleased with Rosario Dawson who performs well as the tough and determined Barbara Gordon and Ralph Fiennes who offers a dry, droll and deadpan voice to Alfred Pennyworth. Zach Galifianakis offers wicked zeal with a touch of pathos as The Joker. Michael Cera is an absolute riot as the perpetually joyful, eager-to-please Dick Grayson/Robin. As expected, Will Arnett shines, and brings a parodic darkness and intensity to his Batman, but also flavors it with comedic arrogance and vanity. It is a performance that beautifully lampoons the darker, edgier takes on the hero and Arnett has the perfect voice and comic timing for it.
Though some of these darker, edgier versions of the Caped Crusader have a brilliance of their own, it is refreshing to sometimes take a break from it and enjoy a boisterous, witty and uproarious take on the character. The Batman character made his first appearance in comics in 1939 and has gone through various iterations and has usually swung back and forth between darkness and light, camp and gravity. The creators behind the Lego movie franchise, the filmmakers behind this movie, and Will Arnett have come up with an ingenious blend of these two extremes and in doing so, have made a movie that makes for an awesome time at the cinema.