“The Lego Batman Movie” is a ridiculously fun parody of the Caped Crusader

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This article was originally published for the University of Denver newspaper, the DU Clarion. It has been republished here with permission. The original can be found here.

When “The Lego Movie”  was released in 2014, it became an unexpected hit that seemed destined for franchise glory, using a seemingly bottomless toy chest to lampoon as many properties as possible. With “The Lego Batman Movie,” the franchise has confidently proven itself worthy of numerous entries, creating a witty and gorgeously crafted parody that puts other animated films to shame.

The satirical film follows an egotistical and selfish version of Bruce Wayne/Batman (Will Arnett, “Arrested Development”) face his fear of having a family when he adopts spunky young Dick Grayson/Robin (Michael Cera, “Juno”) after pressure from loyal butler Alfred (Ralph Fiennes, “The Grand Budapest Hotel”). Complicating matters further, the Caped Crusader also faces pressure from newly appointed police commissioner Barbara Gordon (Rosario Dawson, “Sin City”) and evil plots formed by Gotham’s band of villains, led by an obsessive and attention-starved Joker (Zach Galifianakis, “The Hangover”).

Banking on the self-referential success of last year’s “Deadpool,” the film is an often funny and rather intelligent interrogation of not only superhero films, but of Batman himself. Arnett’s voice work, which is impeccable, combines with the script to create a Batman that may be one of the finest tongue-in-cheek characters ever seen on screen, let alone in an animated picture. He is the perfect symbol of everything melodramatic about the so-called world’s greatest detective: a childish vigilante who sees little of value outside of what goes on in his spandex. By creating this character so vividly, Arnett allows the jokes to hit Batman with full effect and truly lampoon the character. The performance nicely sets up an arc that serves as both a comic relief from the gloom and doom of modern Batman tales and a sharp commentary on the comic book genre.

While the primary plot is thinly disguised standard fare, it’s the fun of the Lego spin that gives the film life outside the humor. Like “The Lego Movie” before it, the proceedings of “Lego Batman” are expertly realized. The animation method and the Lego property combine to create an infinite and beautiful world for the well-defined characters to play in. This gives other family franchises a run for their money in terms of style and scope. The infiniteness of possibility gives both kids and adults something to be entertained with, peppering the film with references that all ages can enjoy. However, the film is ultimately more focused than its predecessor despite the presence of other film franchises in the movie. Shifting the lens to mostly the Batman universe gives the film a real sense of purpose. This is noticeably different from ‘The Lego Movie” where the more generic central characters called for an endless cast of characters to distract viewers from the blandness of the newly created roles.

“The Lego Batman Movie” is not attempting to be anything outside of pure popcorn entertainment, and that’s a good thing for this type of film. It ultimately can’t escape the schmaltzy messaging of a children’s film, which drags things along a bit in the second half, but everything else here is so enjoyable that it’s easy to give it a pass. The film is certainly no “The Dark Knight”, but it’s at least a lot more fun than a lot of the self-obsessed junk the superhero genre is churning out these days (looking at you, “Batman V. Superman.”).

Ryan Ninesling