Lego Batman [Review by Haus]
Lego Batman is here! This sequel to Phil Lord & Christopher Miller’s surprise masterpiece The Lego Movie may not match those heady heights, but it’s funny, smart, in on the joke, and one of the best Batman movies there is.
Let’s catch up: The Lego Movie was a stunning piece of subterfuge, a real head-trip in kid-flick clothing. (If you missed it, fix that.) And one of the funniest parts of that film was Batman, voiced by Will Arnett. While live-action big screen Batman has to play it straight, Arnett’s Lego version is a charmingly self-involved, bro-tastic lone wolf who deadpans some of the best one-liners in the film. He’s supremely entertaining, and very much in need of an Act Two comeuppance. So it’s no surprise that Lego Batman gets his own sequel.
This story is set in (Lego) Gotham, and draws from the deep bench of characters in the established Batman / DC universe. But instead of plotting out a simple villain arc, this one goes right for the thigh meat, throwing every single villain on screen in the first five minutes, and diving headlong into Batman’s loneliness, narcissism, vanity, and general irreverent awesomeness.
The story centers around Batman’s adoption of young Dick Grayson (who becomes Robin), and his teaming up with the police commissioner to combat some evil — nothing revolutionary there. And you’re safe in predicting that Batman will at some point be challenged to understand the value of family, teamwork, and having people around him. (Interestingly, the little CGI plastic version of this character is perhaps the most human one I’ve seen.) But you’re not here for that.
Let’s get to the good stuff: This movie is jam-full of funny. It’s actually shocking how funny it is given how risque it’s not. We’re so inundated today with mere-chuckle raunch-gags that it’s hard to imagine anything wholesome budging the needle at all. But it does. These Lego movies are like a Chaplin film for Modern Times. (Sorry.) Not rude, not sexual, not gross — but funny because of characters, boorishness, legitimate jokes, and perfect timing. (Aside: I’ve rarely seen a film that plays so well with total saturation–action, color, noise, commotion–and stillness. A good comedic director knows to ease off the throttle, catch a breath, and mine still more laughs from the silence. Chris McKay does that. This film also uses opening credits voice-over to excellent effect, continuing the Deadpool-popularized trend of fourth-wall-breaking narration.)
I didn’t say too much about the last Lego film and I won’t say much more about this one. Here’s the rub: Lego Batman is a smart, self-aware homage to decades of Batman movies (and even the TV show). It’s got top-shelf voice talent, clever zingers, and it’ll keep the kids happy. (Though they’ll want to buy some toys, natch.) But don’t, whatever you do, think this is just a kids’ movie.
So what if you didn’t wake up this morning thinking “gee, I really need to watch a movie about a CGI animated plastic Batman toy.” No one did. (Well, I did.) That’s not the point. We go to the movies to be surprised, entertained, amused. This film does that, and it doesn’t go gentle. See it.
Haus Verdict: Falls a hair shy of the thunderous laughs of the first, but mixes it up enough to skirt sequel-itis. A smart, funny, adult-friendly romp that no one should miss, and a fine homage to decades of on-screen Batmen.
Lego Batman opens Friday, February 10.
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