The 400-Word Review: The LEGO Batman Movie
By Sean Collier
February 13, 2017
It was almost inevitable that The LEGO Batman Movie would serve as an uproarious parody of the Caped Crusader. The self-serious superhero, lightly skewered in 2014’s The LEGO Movie, is naturally fertile ground for parody.
What’s remarkable, then, is not that The LEGO Batman Movie is quite good; of course it is. What’s remarkable is that it’s one of the best Batman movies ever, only definitely outranked by The Dark Knight and Tim Burton’s first Batman; you’d have a tough time arguing that any of the other big-screen renderings of Bruce Wayne are better.
Sure, it’s a satire, but it has a plot: Batman (Will Arnett) is living in isolation, battling a hilarious lengthy list of super-villains by night and returning home to microwave lobsters and cackle at ’90s romcoms by day. Alfred (Ralph Fiennes) urges him to get out more; meanwhile, the Dark Knight is harboring a crush on Barbara Gordon (Rosario Dawson). Gobsmacked by her at a society function, Wayne inadvertently agrees to adopt an orphan (Michael Cera).
The story is about Wayne’s struggles with trust and intimacy; can he let anyone in after the loss of his parents? To some extent, that’s what most Batman stories are about. But rendered in all-ages terms here, it’s surprisingly touching.
All of which is gravy. Because, in nearly every frame, The LEGO Batman Movie is utterly hilarious.
Much of that is on Arnett, who will immediately become many people’s favorite Batman; scenes where he’s given reign to riff are unforgettable, and he’s excellent paired with both Cera and Fiennes. The lineup of talent in the supporting cast is stronger than any recent animated film — Zach Galifianakis, Jenny Slate, Jason Mantzoukas, Billy Dee Williams, Conan O’Brien, Eddie Izzard, Jemaine Clement and Ellie Kemper are among the recognizable voices. (As is Siri. Like, from phones. I wonder how her residuals work.)
As much credit is due to the performers, however, more should be given to the lightning-paced script. Five writers are credited, led by Seth Grahame-Smith; while that many names on a screenplay often means trouble, here, it explains the frenetic pace of the humor. Jokes fly at a rate unheard of in most comedies (and all nominally family-focused flicks). The spinoff of a toy tie-in movie is an unlikely source for one of the best parody films in years, but The LEGO Batman Movie is better for its inherent absurdity.
My Rating: 8/10
Sean Collier is the Associate Editor of Pittsburgh Magazine and a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association. Read more from Sean at pittsburghmagazine.com/afterdark