The LEGO Batman Movie
Posted on February 6, 2017 at 5:26 pm
“The LEGO Batman” movie is not just sure to be one of the funniest movies of the year, with laugh lines that come so fast it is impossible to catch your breath before the next one. It is also the most astute mash-up of love letter and take down of a popular culture icon since the brilliant “Galaxy Quest.”
“The LEGO Movie” was an unexpected blockbuster, sweet and very funny, surprisingly ambitious in scope. This spin-off is more focused, its basic structure very much in the tradition of the DC Comics character as created by Bob Kane and Bob Finger and as interpreted through the Adam West television series of the 1960’s, the Dark Knight comics and movies, and the Tim Burton movies, all of which get quick, understated, very clever nods so deeply enmeshed in the history and culture of Bruce Wayne/Batman and his world as to satisfy the heart of the most devoted fanboy. There’s even a plane from McGuffin Airlines.
The movie opens on a black screen. In case we don’t understand why, LEGO Batman explains that “all important movies begin with a black screen” and edgy music and logos. Just in case that isn’t pretentious enough, there’s also a quote on the screen…from that great philosopher Michael Jackson.
The Joker (Zach Galifianakis) has a great big bomb and is getting ready to blow up Gotham. This is very serious as it turns out Gotham is held up only by, well, pretty much a table. Batman comes in to take the bomb and save the day — also to break the Joker’s heart because he won’t acknowledge that the Joker is the most special and important of all of the villains. Pro tip: when you confiscate the Joker’s big “unnecessarily complicated” bomb, disable it before you stow it in the Batcave museum.
Gotham saved, Batman goes home to a lonely lobster thermidor dinner and a solo screening in his home theater, where he has a collection of mostly-cheesy romantic comedies. When he’s not responding to the Bat Signal and saving the day, he roams around Wayne Manor gazing pensively at old family pictures (note that on that last shot of his parents outside the theater, the nearby street sign says “Crime Alley”). But of course it would not be a Batman movie without some fancy society gala, so he dons his tux and goes to Commissioner Gordon’s retirement party. Barbara Gordon (Rosario Dawson) is taking over and to Batman’s dismay she tells the crowd that she plans to stop relying on Batman for all of Gotham’s crime-fighting needs. (After all, even with all his skill, Gotham is still constantly being attacked by deranged and very colorful bad guys.) She wants to involve more people in law enforcement. Batman is not at all happy about this. Furthermore, he is so distracted he sort of accidentally agrees to adopt an enthusiastic orphan with big anime-style eyes (Michael Cera as Dick Grayson).
Joker has come to a similar conclusion and he decides to team up, too — with the inhabitants of Superman’s Phantom Zone, including just about every literary bad guy anyone 12 and under might know, from Harry Potter’s Voldemort to King Kong and Oz’s Wicked Witch of the West.
The jokes come very fast, usually understated and references to pop culture, which adds to the feeling of being in on something. And the visuals are delightful, perfectly evoking the adorable clunkiness of the LEGO universe. The flames are made of plastic and the guns go “pew pew pew” instead of “bang bang bang.” But the cleverest idea of all was understanding that the very same qualities that make Batman, especially in his Dark Knight persona, so compelling work even better if he acts petulant and childish instead of a brooding and mysterious. The playground-style taunts are funny because they are real and relatable, no matter how old you are.
Parents should know that this movie has cartoon-style action and peril, with no one hurt, some schoolyard language and potty humor.
Family discussion: Why is it hard for Batman to rely on other people? Why does he like to watch romantic comedies? How does he feel when he sees all the other Justice League superheroes at the Fortress of Solitude? Why does the Joker care how Batman feels about him?
If you like this, try: “The LEGO Movie”