Beware of going into a movie with very high expectations. I had heard how amazing The LEGO Batman Movie before stepping into the theater and, loving both The LEGO Movie and the various straight-to-DVD LEGO Batman movies, I was ready for something amazing. What I instead got was something that was good, with some funny jokes and a great portrayal of Batman, but nowhere near the amazing movie people convinced me I was going to see.
The first thing I have to say is not to go into The LEGO Batman Movie expecting it to come close to The LEGO Movie. Also, don’t expect the amount of humor and laughs of even the straight-to-DVD LEGO Batman movies or video games. That bothers me because if good and entertaining LEGO Batman movies can be made for home video, I can’t understand why this movie struggled so hard to remain entertaining throughout its running time.
The movie starts out with a huge number of villains stealing a lot of explosives and then threatening to blow up a reactor in Gotham City, which would destroy the entire city. They are led by The Joker and each of them are introduced by name in an exhaustingly long sequence that seems like it will never end. Batman stops them in a manic sequence, and he is then worshiped by the people of Gotham City, visits orphans to give gifts and make them happy, and then he heads home.
At this point, there is another excruciatingly long sequence showing how boring Batman’s life is and the movie just screeches to a halt for something that really isn’t that funny.
The movie then actually kicks into the main plot, which involves the Joker trying to convince Batman that they need each other to be great – or as Jerry Maguire said, “you complete me.” Batman refuses Joker’s advances to be his greatest enemy and that ties into Batman also refusing to accept help from anyone at any time. Batman can’t tie himself down to anyone, a family or an enemy, and that is what is missing in his life.
So, what makes The LEGO Batman Movie work?
The references, homages, and parodying of the history of Batman.
There are references to a “parade with Price music” (Batman 1989), Alfred donning a mask from 1969 Batman because he misses the old days, a quick shot of Bat-nipples (Batman & Robin), and Joker even saying that they have been battling for 75 years now (Joker first appeared in 1940). Alfred even goes through the entire Batman movie franchise with Batman at one point. Oh yeah, Billy Dee Williams plays Two-Face (if you don’t know, look it up).
The LEGO Batman Movie plot sees Bruce Wayne accidentally adopt Richard Grayson (Grayson – “kids call me Dick.” Bruce – “yeah, kids can be mean.”) and then decides to use him to break into Superman’s Fortress of Solitude to steal a device that sends bad guys to the Phantom Zone. He finds resistance from Barbara Gordon, who took over as commissioner for her dad, but when The Joker breaks some of the most dangerous villains of all time out of the Phantom Zone (King Kong, Wicked Witch of the West, Gremlins, Eye of Sauron, Agent Smith, Lord Voldemort, and more), Batman has to learn to work as a member of a team (or family) to save Gotham City.
Look, there is something in The LEGO Batman Movie to enjoy when it comes to the storyline and the inside jokes are fantastic for people who love Batman. There are also a lot of satire-styled jokes that really connect and even more than just caused me to roll my eyes. The story of family and not working as a loner is great and this movie really showed how Batman should be in movies (not the heavy metal rapper, but the loner who needs a family).
The LEGO Batman Movie voice cast is great and Will Arnett continues to shine as Batman. Michael Cera I perfectly geeky as Robin and Ralph Fiennes is splendid as Alfred. Zack Galifianakis is also perfect as The Joker. While they knock it out in their voice roles, it is clear that this movie had a little too much going on and a stretched-out running time to make it a feature length movie.
I really wanted to love The LEGO Batman Movie and left thinking it was just okay. To me, that makes this the first real disappointment of 2017. It has fun moments and some laugh out loud humor, but it never kicks into high gear to become anything close to a great sequel to The Lego Movie.