MOVIE REVIEW: ‘The Lego Batman Movie’ sets the bar early for animated films in 2017

Thanks to non-stop laughs and the beautiful charm we got in its predecessor, this Lego story might be one of the better Batman films ever made

| February 8, 2017

In 2014, critics and audiences alike were shell-shocked at the level of charm that “The Lego Movie” had. It was a funny, beautifully crafted, surprisingly dark and super clever animated film that used its self-awareness to its glorious advantage. Of course, “The Lego Movie” has its inevitable sequel hitting theaters in 2019, but Warner Animation Group and Lego have something up their sleeves to keep us occupied until then: “The Lego Batman Movie.” The undisputed star of “The Lego Movie” was Will Arnett’s smooth-talking, vapid Batman that was a completely new take on the beloved character not seen in other movies before. Yet, the question remains: can this live up to the glory that “The Lego Movie” brought to the screen?

Surprisingly, yes.

Batman (Will Arnett) is perfectly happy with his life as both Bruce Wayne and the Caped Crusader of Gotham. He lives a solitary life with his butler, Alfred (Ralph Fiennes), but finds little joy beyond the vapid pleasures of life. At a police gala, Wayne is transfixed by the new police commissioner, Barbara Gordon (Rosario Dawson), who proposes a plan to unite the police force and Batman, to which Wayne feverishly disagrees. In his tirade, he accidentally agrees to adopt an orphaned fan, Dick Grayson (Michael Cera), who then begins work as Batman’s expendable sidekick, as he sneaks around the police to put The Joker (Zach Galifanakis) away once and for all.

Now, of course this doesn’t feel as fresh as “The Lego Movie” did when it dropped, if only because this isn’t the first movie we’ve ever seen on the big screen made out of Lego toys. What “The Lego Batman Movie” surprisingly doesn’t do is spoil the character of Batman. In the past, studios have given beloved supporting characters the spotlight in a sequel or spin-off film and completely spoil the character when we’re given too much (ex. Mater in “Cars 2”). From the start, the filmmakers know that Batman must have a story arc from the get-go, or all of the shenanigans will get old really quickly. The emotional connection establishes with Batman and his relationship with others from the start makes “The Lego Batman Movie” successful on the most rudimentary of fronts.

Yet, the biggest success in “The Lego Movie” overall was its use of humor, which “The Lego Batman Movie” has in full. From before a single studio logo appears, it’s apparent that the writers here have used this medium to satirize the entirety of the superhero genre, which they pull off wondrously. This is a movie where there are both jokes for kids and adults simultaneously, but not in the typical fashion where the adult humor is a cleverly worded sex joke, but that of some really smart humor that actually requires a bit of thought. This isn’t the film you expect that from, but you oddly appreciate that it has it.

There are a lot of voice actors in “The Lego Batman Movie,” almost too many to keep up. Of course the main voice cast of Arnett, Cera, Dawson, Fiennes and Galifanakis do solid work, especially that of Arnett, but the cast list seems to truly never end. Other cast members include: Channing Tatum, Mariah Carey, Jenny Slate, Billy Dee Williams, Hector Elizondo, Conan O’Brien, Jason Mantzoukas, Doug Benson, Zoë Kravitz, Kate Micucci, Riki Lindhome, Jonah Hill, Adam Devine, Eddie Izzard, Seth Green, Jemaine Clement and Ellie Kemper, and these are just the ones that are officially announced, as there’s no telling how many cameos and easter egg voices there are. The beauty with this voice cast is that it doesn’t just sound like a group of celebrities coming together to sound like celebrities. “The Lego Batman Movie” is a silly film that gives its voice cast an incredible amount of breathing room to be creative and funny. It’s obvious that improv was an important part of the voicing process and its natural flow sets it apart from many other animated voice casts.

Just like “The Lego Movie,” “The Lego Batman Movie” is a beautifully animated film. While we weren’t screened the film in 3D, the 2D product is a stunning sight for the eyes, which makes me wonder how fun this film will be in its full IMAX 3D release. This is a lively, colorful film that seemingly goes against everything that DC Comics movies have done lately. While “The Dark Knight Series” holds a special spot in my heart, and especially after being burned by “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice,” I can go so far to argue that “The Lego Batman” movie is one of the best Batman movies ever made, if only due to its fun nature and complete reinvention of the character that surprisingly works.

With both “Fifty Shades Darker” and “John Wick: Chapter 2” (both of which have reviews coming) dropping in theaters this weekend, it seems like a family trip to the movies is in order. It might seem like Mom would go see “Fifty Shades Darker,” Dad would go see “John Wick: Chapter 2,” while dropping off the kids in “The Lego Batman Movie,” but I would argue for the whole family to sit down with “The Lego Batman Movie.” This is a hilariously clever, beautifully animated and utterly charming film that does more to bring DC back from the dead than anything Zack Snyder has touched thus far, which in reference to this film, is a compliment. “The Lego Batman Movie” keeps the hope for both DC Comics and the Lego Cinematic Universe alive in flying colors, but mostly that of black and yellow.

4.5/5

Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Directed by: Chris McKay
Starring: Will Arnett, Zach Galifanakis, Michael Cera, Rosario Dawson, and Ralph Fiennes, Channing Tatum, Mariah Carey, Jenny Slate, Billy Dee Williams, Hector Elizondo, Conan O’Brien, Jason Mantzoukas, Doug Benson, Zoë Kravitz, Kate Micucci, Riki Lindhome, Jonah Hill, Adam Devine, Eddie Izzard, Seth Green, Jemaine Clement, Ellie Kemper.
Runtime: 104 minutes
Rating: PG for rude humor and some action.
Also available in RealD 3D and IMAX.

Warner Bros. Pictures presents, in association with Lego Systems A/S, a Lin Pictures/Lord Miller/Vertigo Entertainment production, “The Lego Batman Movie”

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Category:Arts and Entertainment, Film

Hunter Heilman

Hunter is the current editor-in-chief for The Niner Times. He is a senior Communications major who wishes he were a dog and wants to pet your dog if you have one. Hunter has been a member of the North Carolina Film Critics Association (NCFCA) since August 2015. Hunter has been the editor-in-chief since May 2016. Please do not hesitate to shoot him an e-mail at editor@ninertimes.com for any questions or concerns and he’ll be sure to get back to you ASAP.

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Hunter Heilman

Hunter is the current editor-in-chief for The Niner Times. He is a senior Communications major who wishes he were a dog and wants to pet your dog if you have one. Hunter has been a member of the North Carolina Film Critics Association (NCFCA) since August 2015. Hunter has been the editor-in-chief since May 2016. Please do not hesitate to shoot him an e-mail at editor@ninertimes.com for any questions or concerns and he’ll be sure to get back to you ASAP.

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