Movie Review: The LEGO Batman Movie (2017)

WARNING: Excessive Laughter May Result In Jaw Ache!

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Since 2006, LEGO and Batman have been BFFs, with the caped crusader appearing in dozens of playsets, video games, and even animated movies. Yes, technically this is not even the first LEGO Batman film, though it is the first to get the big screen treatment. There’s no denying this partnership has been a recipe for success and The LEGO Batman Movie may well be the icing on the cake.

batman_handIf you’ve seen its predecessor, The LEGO Movie, then you should already have an idea of the direction taken with the Batman character. Don’t worry if you haven’t though, as this film is very much its own thing, but for those not in the know, this Batman is a total parody. It’s undeniable, Batman’s a badass, but imagine if he knew that too and revelled in it. That’s LEGO Batman. He’s edgy, incessantly arrogant and his one weakness – besides snake-clowns – is a severe aversion to relationships of any kind. By night, he’s kicking ass, but by day he’s holed up in the solitude of Wayne Manor.

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The movie begins with Batman (Will Arnett) once more foiling the Joker’s (Zach Galifianakis) wicked scheme, and then bluntly declaring that he doesn’t even consider the clown price to be his greatest foe. Heartbroken, the Joker decides to come up with a plan that will prove to Batman, once and for all, how important their relationship really is.

barbaragoBut the nefarious plans of an arch-villain aren’t the only things that Batman/Bruce Wayne must deal with, after accidentally adopting the orphan, Dick Grayson (Michael Cera), and encountering Gotham’s new police commissioner, Barbara Gordon (Rosario Dawson), both of whom want to work with Batman – much to the dismay of the solitary dark knight.

Family is the driving theme of this movie, specifically the families we make for ourselves through friendships, rivalries and circumstance. All the characters desire some kind of relationship with Batman, if only he would let them in.

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It’s a surprisingly moving story, which never detracts from the movie’s bountiful humour, nor is it lost beneath it. In fact, much like its predecessor, the movie walks the tightrope perfectly, aiming to appeal to audiences of all ages, with whacky humour for the kids and an abundance of references for adult fans – far too many to catch on one viewing alone.

robinThe performances delivered in this movie are top-notch. Will Arnett is hilarious as a Batman far too aware of how awesome he is. Michael Cera’s adorably goofy Dick Grayson is a welcome foil, along with Ralph Fiennes as Bruce Wayne’s long suffering butler, Alfred Pennyworth.

I was especially impressed by Zach Galifianakis, whose take on the Joker seems to draw loosely from Heath Ledger’s performance in The Dark Knight, while still adding something unique. This Joker is genuinely sympathetic, at times more like a jilted lover than an arch-villain. The light-hearted take on Batman and Joker’s “relationship” was one of my favourite things about this movie.

ckingHowever, the greatest performance of them all comes from the bricks themselves. The animation used to bring LEGO Gotham City to life is a true visual treat. Just like its predecessor, The LEGO Batman Movie never pretends that plastic minifigures are somehow magically flexible. In fact, it revels in their limitations for comedic effect, allowing for a plethora of visual gags that might not have been there without such creative minds behind the wheel.

For example, there’s a sequence where the Condiment King  – yes, a real villain – fires ketchup from his gun in the form of red LEGO bricks. It’s hard to describe, but believe me, the little moments like that, so frequent in this movie, add a charm to it that is entirely unique to LEGO movies.

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No film is entirely free of criticism, and I’d be remiss in my duties if I completely avoided the negative. There is, of course, a great deal of product placement in this movie. I can’t really criticise a movie based around a line of toys for featuring said toys. I personally didn’t find the obvious nods towards purchasable sets all that invasive, however, prominently featured were some minifigures exclusively available from the LEGO Dimensions line, which is generally quite expensive. I’d like to believe they were there solely because the plot required them, but I’m a bit more cynical than that.

More irritating are several references to iPhones, not because iPhones are inherently irritating, but because their inclusion didn’t serve a purpose beyond clear product placement. Worthy of note is that Batman’s computer is even credited as being performed by Siri, the iPhone’s “intelligent personal assistant”.

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The only other issue of note – and I feel it is a niggling one – is that while the movie itself is amazing – especially to someone who grew up with LEGO and possesses a nigh encyclopedic knowledge of the Batman mythos – there may well be jokes and references that are simply lost on casual audiences.

I can’t say how much that might affect someone’s enjoyment of this movie, because it’s difficult to put myself in the shoes of someone who, for example, might genuinely not know that Batman is in fact billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne. My gut tells me that enough of Batman’s sizable lore is household knowledge by now, but it felt worth considering.

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Regardless, The LEGO Batman Movie is by far the funniest film I have seen in a very long time. Strange to say this as a positive, but this movie actually gave me jaw ache from the unending barrage of gags and comic references. Yes, this movie is so funny that it may leave you in physical pain. Be warned!

batman_riddlerPossibly the best thing about this movie is its blatant self-awareness. You can tell that the makers of this film know their LEGO, and are not ashamed to use it. Because of this, The LEGO Batman Movie feels like a labour of love, with a genuinely heartfelt message that is delivered in a way both whimsical and charming.

I highly recommend this movie to anyone with a love of LEGO, Batman, or simply an appreciation for impeccably crafted animation.

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Specifications
Rating: PG
Runtime: 104 minutes

Links
Wiki
IMDB
Rotten Tomatoes
Official Website
Metacritic

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