The LEGO Movie shocked everyone in 2014 by turning out to be one of the best movies of the year. It was not only hilarious, but heartfelt and inspiring, and wound up as one of the year’s biggest hits. Three years later, we return to the LEGO world, but not in the form of a sequel. The LEGO Batman Movie takes Batman, who was a supporting character in the original, and puts him front and center. And quite frankly, it’s the best DC movie in five years.
The LEGO Batman Movie follows Batman (Will Arnett) as he deals with a life crisis. He is loved and adored by the people of Gotham City, but he goes home every night and sits alone, missing the family that was taken from him. But everything he knows will change when he accidentally adopts a teenage orphan (Michael Cera), and the new police commissioner (Rosario Dawson) decides that Gotham is no place for vigilantes. When the Joker (Zach Galifianakis) develops a plan to prove that he is the greatest villain ever, Batman must learn to work with those around him to stop him.
The original LEGO Movie was directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, known for the Jump Street series, and showcased their trademark humor by sending up the clichés of modern blockbusters. Taking over the reigns from Lord and Miller, LEGO Batman director Chris McKay applies the same humor in the form of a send up to superhero movies and the huge amount of Batman lore. Every Batman movie and show is referenced, going all the way back to the 1940s, and a massive array of villains appear, ranging from The Riddler and Catwoman to The Eraser and Condiment Man. Fans of the hero are sure to appreciate all the ways McKay finds to poke fun at his very diverse and expansive history.
Another great aspect of the original film that LEGO Batman successfully replicates is its stellar casting. Will Arnett was also the voice of Batman in the original, so his portrayal is familiar, but he manages to add to it. In The LEGO Movie, Batman was mostly just a joke with a funny voice, but here, Arnett is able to add some pain to the deep voice that makes you feel for the character. It’s great voice work. Rosario Dawson and Ralph Fiennes (as Alfred) are also great, and there are some wonderful surprise cameos, but Michael Cera and Zach Galifianakis absolutely steal the show. Cera’s Robin is so lovably optimistic that nearly everything he says will bring a smile to your face, and Galifianakis manages to turn the Joker into a truly human character with a portrayal that is both funny and strangely heartfelt.
In fact, most of the movie is pretty heartfelt. Again like the original LEGO Movie, LEGO Batman has some good messages. Batman is lonely and struggles to move past the death of his family. This causes him to distance himself from everyone that cares about him, and these relationships get to be explored. But somehow, in a movie that gives Batman a surrogate father, an adopted son, and a potential love interest, the relationship between Batman and the Joker is the best part of the movie. Batman refuses to recognize the Joker as his greatest enemy, and this little subplot manages to lead to not only some hilarious sequences, but a few deep moments between the two that really drive the plot along. The sentimentality can get a little sugary at times, but it’s mostly done really well.
Even more than it is a heartfelt movie, The LEGO Batman Movie is a very funny movie, but possibly to a fault. A large proportion of the jokes in the movie land, but there are just so many of them, often a handful every minute. It never lets up for 100 minutes, which can get a little exhausting. But if being too funny is the biggest flaw in your movie, you did a good job. The LEGO Batman Movie manages to take everything that made The LEGO Movie great, combine it with everything that’s loved about the Batman property, and turn it into a movie that is clever, funny, heartfelt, beautifully animated, and enjoyable for pretty much anyone. Job well done.