Greg Eichelberger reviews "The LEGO Batman Movie" (2017)
"Sir . . . I’ve seen you go through similar phases in 2016 and 2012 and 2008 and 2005 and 1997 and 1995 and 1992 and 1989 and that weird one in 1966.” — Alfred Pennyworth (voice of Ralph Fiennes) to Batman, "The LEGO Batman Movie"
Like its 2014 predecessor, “The LEGO Movie,” "The LEGO Batman Movie," a sequel — of sorts — keeps the clever, irreverent (and hilarious) aspects, thanks to director Chris McKay (the helmer of the first film) and writers Seth Grahame-Smith, Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Jared Stern and John Whittington, none of whom, ironically, had anything to do with the original feature.
With dozens of pop cultural references, musical interludes, historical puns and audience asides, the picture plays like a hyper version of a “Mystery Science Theater 3000” episode and tells the story of the ongoing battle of wits and wills between Batman (voice of Will Arnett, “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows”) and Joker (voice of Zach Galifianakis, “Keeping Up with the Joneses,” "Baskets" TV series).
Here in McKay’s world, however, the dynamic of hero and villain is more like a romantic relationship between lovers (for instance, Batman tells his “enemy” that he has more than one nemesis, saying, “I like to fight around”). For the lone wolf, dark knight vigilante, this is fine and dandy, but to Joker, these words cut like a knife, so he plans his revenge and to prove he is the Caped Crusaders one true equal and opposite number.
Batman is also alone with no family or friends to speak off (except faithful butler, Alfred), and spends several absolutely hilarious sequences heating food in a microwave, eating dinner and laughing at the conclusion of “Jerry Maguire” (hey, who wouldn’t?!). He also pines for his dead parents (shown in a “selfie” he took shortly before their murder) and has conversations with his “computer.”
Employing the stock Batman bad guys (including The Riddler, Catwoman, Bane, Two-Face, Scarecrow, Clayface, Poison Ivy, as well as some completely made up characters), Joker plants the stock explosive devices, hijacks an airliner, makes ransom demands and causes generally chaotic confusion, but is ultimately conquered and sent to prison.
He then formulates a plan to get “transferred” to the Phantom Zone detention area for an even more nefarious scheme.
Meanwhile, Bruce Wayne promises to adopt an annoying, goofy, but good-hearted orphan, Richard “Dick” Grayson (voice of Michael Cera, “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World,” "This Is the End"), plus has to deal with Gotham’s newest Police Commissioner, Barbara Gordon (voice of Rosario Dawson, “The Captive”), and her policy making the superhero play by the rules, have some accountability AND work with others.
It all comes to a head soon thereafter, when, after using Harley Quinn (Jenny Slate, “This Means War”) to free him from the Zone, Joker also reintroduces a villainous all-star gang featuring General Zod, Sauron, Lord Voldemort, King Kong, the Gremlins and those silly British robots (the Daleks) from the “Dr. Who” TV series, to help put into motion his end game with Batman.
Will Batman save Gotham once again? Will he show love to his butler, son and Babs Gordon? Will he finally begin to work well with others? And will the “ship” grow stronger between him and Joker? Well, you have to find the answers to these questions yourself, but one thing is for sure, one will most likely not experience a funnier time at the box office.
It is a sad commentary, though, that many of the more humorous films seem to be animated (i.e., “Shaun the Sheep,” “Finding Dory,” “Zootopia,” and “Sausage Party,” to name but a few), while live action so-called comedies continue to circle the drain.
"The LEGO Batman Movie" is no exception. It is also a perfect parody of the Batman/DC superhero genre (spoofing Justice League characters such as Superman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Green Lantern and others), as well as the fourth best Batman film ever made, for whatever that's worth.
Often loud, silly and confusing, but ALWAYS side-splitting, this Warner Bros. release is certain to not only duplicate the first film’s box office power (more than $450 million), but should surpass it on the award circuit, considering the idiots at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences did not even NOMINATE the first one for a Best Animated Feature Oscar.