Rated PG for rude humor and some action
Screenplay by Seth Grahame-Smith, Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Jared Stern, and John Whittington, with story by Seth Grahame-Smith. Batman created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger. Superman created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster
Directed by Chris McKay
Starring Will Arnett, Michael Cera, Rosario Dawson, Ralph Fiennes, Siri (yes, that Siri), Zach Galifianakis, Jenny Slate and more
Grade: Three and a half stars
It says a lot when the parody Batman movie turns out to be one of the best Batman movies ever made.
“The Lego Batman Movie,” now in theaters, makes fun of the Batman mythos (and his previous big- and small-screen adventures) at pretty much every opportunity. The jokes are pretty funny even for casual Batman fans, but there’s some genuine emotion and depth beneath the sight gags and random beatboxing. Like “The Lego Movie” before it, the movie also has plenty of heart, and manages to represent the inherently familiar nature of the Bat-team far more accurately than several of the Caped Crusader’s more serious big-screen adventures.
Though we first saw Lego Batman as a supporting cast member in “The Lego Movie,” the mythology and plot of the original film is largely jettisoned for the established Batman mythology already in place. This plays on multiple levels, with the basic story familiar to even the most casual fans (the brooding, the dead parents, the loyal butler, the orphan who becomes his sidekick) and deeper details scattered around as Easter eggs for those more familiar with the universe.
(One of the best – a big villain scheme in the opening minutes drags out some of Batman’s most ridiculous villains from his comic-book history – is thankfully explained in-movie. Joker even suggests we Google it.)
The tone is very similar to “The Lego Movie” – very self-referential, constantly breaking the fourth wall and pop culture references flying thick and fast enough that it doesn’t slow the fun down if you miss a few. If you’ve been turned off by previous Batman movies because they’ve been too dark, this is definitely the point to jump in – the filmmakers both respect Batman’s deep brooding and have lightened it up considerably.
Still, there are some serious things about loneliness, family and pushing people away that serve as the heart of the movie. Batman’s image has always been as a brooding loner, but in the comics he’s always had several more sidekicks/support team members than his more brightly colored superhero brethren. He’s the least-alone loner in the history of superhero fiction, a fact that the previous “Batman” movies have largely ignored.
There are real issues addressed in “The Lego Batman Movie,” about learning how to open up to people and the risk that comes with relationships, and they’re all handled with surprising sensitivity. We get a lot of ridiculously overly dramatic bombs in superhero movies, but how often do we get real emotional growth?
Of course, there are also a couple of solid gags about Batman’s tendency to wear his cowl in completely inappropriate places. Honestly, though, I’m pretty sure every Batman secretly has that problem.