Batman (Will Arnett) is simply the greatest hero ever. He pummels bad guys, keeps Gotham City safe, and has the coolest gadgets. Not to mention a seriously buff physique with a chiseled nine pack of spectacular abs. Everyone should just stand in awe of the Caped Crusader. He has it all. There's nothing or no one needed by the almighty Batman. Or so he thinks.
This is the hilarious premise of The LEGO Batman Movie. Writer/director Chris McKay takes the Dark Knight on a riotous, heartfelt new adventure. He turns upside down the solitary, vigilante persona of Batman. Everyone needs backup, a family, friends, or a psychopathic adversary to add meaning and companionship to life. McKay slyly skewers the Batman ethos, poking fun of every previous incarnation. Adults and children alike are going to be rolling in the aisles.
The LEGO Batman Movie begins with the usual villainous set up. Joker (Zach Galifianakis) has hijacked a plane filled with explosives. He's got all of Gotham's baddies in tow to finally put an end to the city and his accursed nemesis. But we all know what's going to happen. As Batman saves the day with laughable ease, the Joker is stunned to learn that our hero doesn't care about him. That's right Joker, you're just another costumed scumbag to be jailed. There's nothing special between you and Batman. Dejected and heartbroken, the Joker vows relationship revenge. He's going to show Batman how much he really needs him.
The LEGO Batman movie is a nonstop onslaught of stimuli. From the clever plot to the insane action, the film never lets up for a second. This whirlwind approach keeps everything light and fluffy. This is a children's film with winks and nods to the adult audience. The filmmakers forego any semblance of subtlety. Disney and Pixar take understated approaches to deliver the message. The LEGO Batman movie spells everything out repeatedly. Batman's tragic past has turned him into a loner with a massive ego. That only goes so far in life, as Alfred (Ralph Fiennes) dictates from his various parenting books for the unruly child.
The CGI animation gets very busy. There are a million things going on at once on screen. This is a good and bad thing. I appreciated the creativity in the settings. Wayne Island, Gotham City, the Batmobile, the Bat Cave, they look tremendous and are very well conceptualized. But when the action hits, it's like brushing your teeth with a firehose. There are some scenes that strained my eyes considerably. The visual effects are bright and intense. This is not a knock on the filmmakers, but an honest physical reaction.
Chris McKay has reverence for the character, but knows where the hits and misses have been. In an odd way, this film is a keen retrospective of Batman. It does a great job of explaining the various incarnations over the years and how the character has developed. The modern, darker Batman is purely a reflection of the times. There's a fun scene where McKay spoofs the sixties Batman with the goofy "bang" and "pow" popping up. Most kids today have never seen Adam West's Batman; kudos to McKay for being a Batman historian as well.
From DC and Warner Bros., every Batman fan will LOVE this movie. Kids will get a kick out of the LEGO animation. It's an excellent pairing that will surely decimate the box office this weekend. Normally I'm the head cheerleader for IMAX and 3D, but am not recommending in this instance. Obviously you'll want to see this film in a state of the art theater, but the large screen format may be overkill.