The Lego Batman Movie is directed by Chris McKay and stars Will Arnett, Michael Cera, Rosario Dawson, Ralph Fiennes, and Zach Galifianakis.
At face value, no one really expected 2014’s “The Lego Movie” to amount to much, but instead be a sloppy nostalgia trip for the sake of making a few dollars. Quite the opposite happened, as it blew audiences away with its clever writing and stellar voice acting, resulting in one of 2014’s best films. The follow-up finds Batman (voiced again by Arnett) at the top of his game, saving the city, beating up bad guys, and keeping his 9-pack abs at peak condition. But after a few new revelations are made in his day-to-day escapades (or rather, night-to-night), he realizes it to be time to face his greatest fear: being part of a family again. Going in, I was cautiously optimistic about this film, as I am a die-hard DC Comics fan and absolutely adore The Lego Movie, but have seen many hits become a one-and-done as far as their respective sequels go. It is a noteworthy achievement that this film is every bit as special as its predecessor and even exceeds it in a few key places.
The same gleeful and fluent stop-motion Lego animation made famous in The Lego Movie is in full force here and makes not only for wonderful visual comedic queues but one of the most visually vibrant of all the Batman films. The voice cast as well does a terrific job bringing these characters to life, such as Cera’s uber-huggable Dick Grayson/Robin, Galifianakis’ Joker, or Ralph Fiennes’ Alfred, the loyal butler to Batman and the source of the major character development as the 106-minute runtime progresses.
Then there’s Will Arnett as Batman.
In quite possibly one of my favorite incarnations of a character so beloved by myself and others, Will Arnett completely steals this entire film with his performance. He takes all the potential silliness of a character like this (a grown man dressing like a bat) and not only runs with that silliness but refines it into ultra-macho toughness that makes for the funniest lines and moments in the film. Yes, he’s vulnerable and emotionally wounded, but he’s also got a sick ride, shredded abs, and he’s a billionaire. This uber-douche bad boy was such an interesting and hilarious take on Batman that I couldn’t help but get sucked in, and eat up every single word. Yet despite a new take on what’s been done before, this entire film is a perfect love-letter to 78 years of our beloved hero, with references, easter eggs, and a Batman ’66 gag towards the end of the third act that made me spit my drink out laughing. This film’s writing is witty, funny, and layered with nuances and intricacies for all DC fans, and the voice acting is even more well done than in The Lego Movie.
Where this film begins to fall short is in its pacing and narrative. Despite an insane and fast-paced first act, things begin to slow down a little too much around the middle, and this contrasts heavily with the high-octane non-stop energy that occupies the first and third acts. In addition, a subplot in this film involving Batman and the Joker immediately stuck out like a sore thumb and felt rather unnecessary whenever it worked its way back into the story. Without giving too much a way, this dynamic is what eventually makes the transition into the third act, and bogs down what was otherwise perfectly fine to begin with.
In short, this film is everything “Batman v. Superman” should’ve been, but in Lego. There ya go. The Lego Batman Movie is a fun, hilarious tribute to source material I’ve loved all my life, and gets an A-.