Review: The LEGO Batman Movie
Batman is a loner; we get it. The notion is heard so often during The LEGO Batman Movie that the filmmakers must think the audience will somehow not notice. It’s a shame really because after a stellar first half, the movie seems to run out of steam as it limps to the finish line.
That’s not to say that this follow-up to 2014’s The LEGO Movie is not without its charms. The movie opens by breaking the fourth wall over the logos in a funny and clever way. Jokes like this one foreshadow it to be as entertaining as the original movie, but it gets bogged down in a plot that feels unworthy of the material.
Maybe it’s simply superhero fatigue. Lego Batman was arguably the best character in the The LEGO Movie, but that film also told us almost everything we needed to know about the character. So while it’s fun to see what he does in his lair (Batman watching Jerry Maguire and mocking it might be one of the most genius things seen this year), the novelty of the idea wears thin when the movie constantly reiterates that he wants to be alone.
LEGO Batman (Will Arnett) spends the better part of his days saving Gotham City, but in private he is an introvert. When Commissioner Gordon (Hector Elizondo) steps down, his daughter Barbara (Rosario Dawson) takes over and wants to work with Batman. That is until every villain he has ever let get away — led by The Joker (Zach Galifianakis) — turn themselves in at Barbara’s celebratory ceremony.
Now without any reason to live, Alfred (Ralph Fiennes) suggests that Batman help out the orphaned Richard Grayson (Michael Cera). Soon, it turns out The Joker has a plan to release all of the villains from The Phantom Zone to wipe out Gotham once and for all. That is of course if Batman, Richard, Alfred, and Barbara can stop them first.
There’s a lot to praise with the voice talent; everyone is on their game. Arnett is an outstanding Batman, and Dawson, Cera, Fiennes, and Galifianakis all excel beyond the characterizations created for them. Yet for all the performances and in-jokes, it somehow manages to lose focus.
For about half the runtime it seemed Lego Batman could hit the same peaks as The LEGO Movie, but at around that point, the plot comes into focus and the comedy basically halts. There’s still a moment or two that hits from time to time (Batman’s love of chick-flicks gets a nice ribbing from the villains, and Batman’s line about only having one butt hits the bullseye) yet there are no surprises or payoffs either. The original film had a clever streak that never let up. Here, the villains are given little to do and the filmmakers seem content to lean into Batman’s loner status.
By the time we hear how alone he wants to be for what seems like the twentieth or so time, our patience starts to wane. It’s not funny; it’s melodrama by this point, as there’s little left to satirize. The ending, at least, hits the comedic notes that the first half hits at almost every opportunity, but it’s almost too little too late.
Despite this, The LEGO Batman Movie still comes recommended. There are enough zingers to guarantee a good enough time (the one where Batman crashes a particular party is an especially good gag, and the dancing dress-up scene early on is fun). With contributions from five screenwriters, though, this could’ve, and should’ve, been a lot more fun. Instead, it’s passable entertainment made by committee.