When the Lego Movie was a hit in 2014, the standout character was Lego Batman, the arrogant and cocky version of Batman voiced by Will Arnett who only builds in “black and sometimes very very very dark gray.” He stole every scene of that movie he was in, and so, it is basically inevitable that he gets his own spin off movie.
In this movie, we see Lego Batman back in Gotham, saving the city from just about every villain in his roster, including the very obscure villains from the Batman ’66 TV show – King Tut, Egghead, etc. Batman is perfectly happy being very much alone, and needing no one. He’s loving his lifestyle and essentially is afraid to form any kind of familial bond, due to what happened to his parents.
The Joker, meanwhile, is of course obsessed with Batman, and obsessed with getting Batman to admit that they need one another, that they make each other better, and that The Joker is Batman’s number one villain – which of course, Batman is not interested in doing. In fact, when questioned on who is best villain is, he mentions Superman prior to Joker.
Bruce Wayne has to go to a city function where Commissioner Gordon is retiring, and his daughter, Barbara, is stepping into the role. At the function, due to being distracted by Barbara’s loveliness, Bruce accidentally agrees to adopt orphan Dick Grayson. Barbara announces her plan for Gotham to get stronger by working together so that they will need Batman less. At this point, The Joker shows up and gives up – agreeing to go to Arkham so that Batman will realize how much he needs him.
Batman, in a misguided plan, decides to steal a phantom zone projector from Superman’s fortress of Solitude to send the Joker to the Phantom Zone, so as to never have to deal with him again. Alfred insists that he take an interest in Dick, who is apparently now living at the mansion? Dick suits up as Robin and together they steal the projector, as Superman is distracted because he’s having a party with the Justice League, that Batman notices he wasn’t invited to – but doesn’t seem to mind.
Together, Batman and Robin break into Arkham and send the Joker to the phantom zone, where he quickly assembles all the super-villains who are trapped there (Voldemort, Sauron, the Krakken, King Kong, etc..) and heads back to Gotham. Barbara locks up Batman and Robin – since he broke the law, but when Joker comes back with a whole new level of villain that the city is not prepared to deal with, she frees him, and Batman is forced to realize that he sometimes needs help – so he, Robin, Alfred, and Barbara team up to save Gotham.
Directed by Chris McKay, the action is great, the jokes are fast and furious, and the graphics are fantastic. Obviously, I really enjoyed the Batman in-jokes, relating to all 78 years of Batman history - especially the bat-repellent spray from the Batman '66 movie.
The performances are fun, and the message is great. Yes, it’s still a kids movie – and yes, the middle is a little chaotic, but overall, it’s really fun.
- Will Arnett continues to make his version of Batman all ego and strength. It’s nice to see him realize he finally needs help, but honestly, for this Batman – it’s really out of character!
- Michael Cera plays the overeager Robin/Dick Grayson. I don't know why he looks like the Carrie Kelley version with the hair and goggles. His removing the pants from his outfit so that he can move better is hilarious. I did find it a bit weird that his background was not covered at all, but really, since his parents were acrobats who were tragically murdered during a circus performance, maybe that’s not something you want to get into in a kids’ movie.
- Rosario Dawson plays Barbara Gordon, who will become Batgirl. She’s tough and no-nonsense, wanting the city to be able to survive without always needing to call on Batman. So, in the end, she also learns that they need to work together.
- Ralph Fiennes plays Alfred, and makes him very supportive and British – but it’s weird because Voldemort is also in this movie, and is played by Eddie Izzard.
- Zach Galifianakis plays the Joker, and makes this Joker a little less menacing that his recent portrayals, and a little more needy and desperate.
- The rest are all more like cameos, since they are just a few lines here and there. But really, the movie is most fun when multiple characters are on screen – similar to the Master-Builder introduction scene from the Lego Movie.
- Jenny Slate voices Harley Quinn, Jason Mantzoukas plays Scarecrow, Conan O’Brien plays the Riddler, Doug Benson plays Bane, Billy Dee Williams plays Two-Face (finally), Zoe Kravitz plays Catwoman, Kate Micucci plays Clayface, Riki Lindhome plays Poison Ivy, Seth Green plays King Kong, Jermaine Clement plays Sauron, Channing Tatum returns as Superman, and Jonah Hill returns as Green Lantern. Brent Musburger, Ralph Garman, and Chris Hardwick all play reporters. Hector Elizondo plays James Gordon – and Mariah Carey plays Mayor McCaskill. Yes, Mariah Carey - plays the mayor, and is pretty hilarious.
Overall the movie is a lot of fun, and can be enjoyed by both kids and adults – which is always a sign of a thoughtful kids’ movie. I had a great time.
7 out of 10 – I could have used more scenes with the Justice League, and with the villains, and less scenes with the message – but hey, the message is the point!