In 2014, The LEGO Movie was a surprise hit, but what was even more surprising was that it was a quality film and hilariously funny. Now, Warner Bros. is revving up the spinoff machine and the first LEGO Movie spinoff stars a guy you may have heard of: Batman. So, does The LEGO Batman Movie live up to its predecessor?
The short answer is: no. Will Arnett reprises his role from The LEGO Movie as Batman and the actors they get to fill out the rest of the voice cast are great, but what’s lacking here is a great story. The film has a good message for kids (and some adults) that everyone needs friends, but Director Chris McKay and his five screenwriters hammer that message home again and again. It felt like Batman had three epiphanies in this film and they were all the same thing. The plot is quite simple: Batman needs to learn to work together with others to defeat the Joker (Zach Galifianakis) and he needs to learn to let people into his life, such as his newly adopted son, Robin (Michael Cera). That’s about it. And the film milks that for an hour and forty-four minutes. Now, that’s only four minutes longer than The LEGO Movie, but this film feels much longer than that. That’s not to say that the film isn’t funny or good. It definitely has several funny parts, though nowhere near as hilarious as The LEGO Movie, and I enjoyed the film overall, but ultimately, it’s a disappointment.
There are multiple and great nods to Batman’s history as a character and those references are funny, but the film never really feels like a Batman film aside from the surface level aesthetics. The whole thing felt like a less clever, less funny re-hash of The LEGO Movie. There is a nice attempt here to dig into Batman’s character that only partially works due to the need to throw in joke after joke after joke, though. I think the film might have worked better as a funny/winking Batman adventure with an actual Batman story, but this feels like the filmmakers had a hard time meshing the Batman and LEGO worlds together. As in the tradition of the original film, some characters from other intellectual properties crash the party, but when they begin wreaking havoc, Batman doesn’t even call on the Justice League, which was introduced in the middle of the film, and this is after he learns he needs help sometimes. I know LEGO Batman isn’t the traditional Batman, but I didn’t think he’d be that obtuse. Ultimately, I think the main problem with the film is that this version of Batman worked great as a supporting character in The LEGO Movie, but when he’s spun off on his own, he can’t carry the whole movie. LEGO Batman is a version that amplifies all of Batman’s worst traits for comedic effect, but when you do a whole movie on him and that’s all he is, the joke loses steam fast.
The voice cast is topnotch with Arnett leading the way as this amplified version of Batman. He has some really funny moments here, but again, nothing reaching the levels of the last film. Cera is good as the innocent Robin and I didn’t find him as annoying as I thought I would from the trailer. Rosario Dawson plays the straight woman well as Barbara Gordon and Galifianakis is fine as the Joker, but his bit about needing Batman to acknowledge him gets a little old. Ralph Fiennes fills out the main cast as Alfred and he does a great job. There are great cameos throughout, so keep your ears open.
Despite the problems I had with it, I did enjoy The LEGO Batman Movie, but I found it to be just okay, so it has to be marked down as a let down. The film just isn’t that inspired, but it’s a fine and fun film to take the kids to. This movie will probably make a ton of money, but I’m hoping that we don’t see a sequel. We get it, Warner Bros. We get the joke. No need to beat it to death.