Lego. Batman. Movie. Three Products in One!

Lego Batman Movie!

Sneak preview of Lego Batman arriving on the red carpet at next year’s People’s Choice Awards.

(Na na na na na na na na na na na na na na na na)
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(Na na na na na na na na na na na na)
(Na na na na na na na na na na na na)
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Short version for the unfamiliar: After a scene-stealing supporting role in The Lego Movie, Will Arnett returns as the Dark Knight Detective Deconstructed with Danish Doodads. As usual Gotham City is besieged by dozens of costumed criminals, now led by a Joker voiced by Zach Galifianakis as a whiny man-child desperate for attention and willing to destroy whatever it takes to get some. His fiendish plan, as convoluted as any live-action movie’s, involves stealing the Phantom Zone Projector from Superman’s Fortress of Solitude and recruiting new, next-level henchmen. Hilarity and crossovers ensue.

Batman the lifelong loner thinks he doesn’t need anyone’s help beating his entire rogues’ gallery for the nth time. Trusty butler Alfred (Ralph Fiennes) disagrees and recruits two helpers to the cause: Richard Grayson (Michael Cera), a young orphan wearing Glasses of +5 Adorableness who’s eager to impress a potential new dad; and new Police Commissioner Barbara Gordon (Rosario Dawson), who’s all for crime-fighting on principle but not for vigilantism, having ushered in her reign with the slogan “It Takes a Village, Not a Batman”. Can this oddball team come together and save the day for Gotham, or will Batman’s stubborn lone wolf act ruin everything?

Hey, look, it’s that one actor!: The Lego Batman Movie revels in numerous cameos from famous folks, so I’m only covering the main players and leaving the bit parts alone because half the fun is rushing to IMDb after your viewing and noting how many actors and personalities you should’ve recognized if you’d had a moment to concentrate in the theater. I’m also reluctant to spoil the influx of characters who show up in Act 2 hailing not from DC Comics but from other film and TV franchises (e.g., Clash of the Titans among other inspired choices).

Costars closest to the main stage including Hector Elizondo as a retiring Jim Gordon, and Jenny Slate (Zootopia) as a Harley Quinn who keeps switching accents, none of them Arleen Sorkin’s. As the Riddler, a few lines go to Conan O’Brien marking his first appearance in a theatrical film playing a character other than himself. In a bit of transmedia corporate synergy, Siri — yes, that Siri — voices the Bat-Computer.

Meaning or EXPLOSIONS? Director Chris McKay (a Robot Chicken veteran) and five credited screenwriters (including Pride and Prejudice and Zombies creator Seth Grahame-Smith) go against the grain of all the better Batman movies in teaching the Caped Crusader about the importance of teamwork, community, friendship, and/or family (those still living, not just the ones whose murders scarred you for life but who don’t really have your back anymore). Sometimes it’s cool to get away from it all and enjoy microwaved lobster alone in the comfort of your echoing Bat-Cave, but many of life’s biggest challenges were never meant to be weathered by yourself. Sometimes we have to ask others for help. Sometimes we need connections to humanity, even at the risk of vulnerability or distraction. Striking moody poses on creepy gargoyles at night is no way to live without seeing yourself become the villain or at least a big off-putting jerk.

The other Moral of the Story: pretty please buy Lego and DC Comics products and licensed merchandise wherever you shop, school, work, or bank. The Lego movies, cartoons, and video games do a nice job of making their interactive ads delightful and entertaining, but still.

Nitpicking? Most of this movie could’ve been made without Legos, except for one third-act crisis that could’ve been solved through other silly means, plus a few tossed-off references to “master builders” for the Lego Movie and video game fans. This otherwise wouldn’t have been hard to rewrite into an epic-length episode of the animated Brave & the Bold.

A few jokes don’t land, but wait ten seconds and they’re replaced by better ones, skipping a couple of mandatory bodily-fluid yuks for the Kids Love Fluid Jokes lobbyists out there.

So what’s to like? As with The Lego Movie, its Bat-filled spinoff is packed with wall-to-wall gags rushing by faster than the eye can follow without a freeze-frame function, including roughly sixteen thousand Easter eggs connecting to virtually every Batman ever — all the movies, many of the cartoons, the 1940s Batman serial, How It Should Have Ended, and Lord knows how many riffs went over my head. My eyesight isn’t the best when it comes to flicks whizzing by at light speed, so I imagine I missed as many as I caught. For me the most fun was in recognizing Z-list villains Christopher Nolan and Zack Snyder would never dream of touching — Crazy Quilt, the Gentleman Ghost, King Tut, Vincent Price’s Egghead, and more more more. If you’ve ever liked a thing made of Batman, this movie has your favorite phase covered sooner or later.

If you’d rather enjoy the basic movie itself and ignore how reference after callback after homage after throwaway spoof keeps getting tossed in your face, it’s got plenty of that for comics fans who love those classic stories in which dozens of heroes team up against dozens of villains, and they all fight and fight and fight, and yay super-heroes. Meanwhile at the core of it all, that cutesy grimdark Bruce Wayne has to put aside his growly disdain for sharing the spotlight and figure out how to appreciate the classic supporting cast that’s helped make his urban dystopia a better place for decades, despite the filmmakers and fans who deemed them disposable. The latter probably wouldn’t show up for ostensible kiddie fare like this anyway, but it’s their loss if they’re missing out on the best Bat-film since at least The Dark Knight.

For their next trick, now I’d like to see Rosario Dawson, Hector Elizondo, Ralph Fiennes, and Conan O’Brien reprise their roles in a live-action version. Also, that live-action version should be fun. And maybe bring back Lego Egghead but this time have him played by Academy Award Winner Jim Rash from Community. I’d pay all the theater upcharges to see that.

How about those end credits? No, there’s no scene after The Lego Batman Movie end credits. By that point I think they were completely out of Easter eggs and the audience needed a break anyway to prevent eyestrain from searching for them in every pixel.

What do you, The Viewers at Home, think?

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