A Batman movie void of fanboy gripes is the rarest of unicorns, but “The Lego Batman Movie” manages to pull it off.
Michael Keaton was too short. Val Kilmer was too blonde. George Clooney clearly didn’t read the script before signing. Christian Bale may be a part of the greatest Batman movie trilogy ever, but his Batman voice was too froggy. Ben Affleck was Ben Affleck (although Batfleck was a pleasant surprise in the gloomy “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice”).
“The Lego Batman Movie” is an hour and a half of forgetting all the drama that comes with not only trying to put a Batman movie together, but trying to build the DC universe on film in general.
There’s lots of fun and tons of laughs — many times at the expense of the entire Batman movie universe as a whole.
The Joker (Zack Galifianakis) is reminded of that time when he tried to take over Gotham while blasting Prince music. Bane’s (Doug Benson) voice is a spoof of Tom Hardy’s unintentionally funny characterization from “The Dark Knight Rises.”
And then there’s Batman himself.
Will Arnett uses his always-on Batman voice (it doesn’t change when he’s Bruce Wayne outside the mask) to remind us that it’s OK for Batman to be funny sometimes.
Although the funniest thing about Batman in Lego form is that he takes himself way too seriously. He’s not trying to be funny, but he is, at times ridiculously so.
Batman eats lobster without removing the shell. He freestyles and beatboxes over his own mix-tapes while fighting crime with an assist from his trusty “puter,” voiced by Siri, of all people. After he’s done saving the day, he’ll stop by an orphanage and blast Batman memorabilia out of a cannon to Gotham City’s neediest kids. He still considers Superman one of his biggest adversaries, perhaps still holding on to some bad vibes after “B v S.”
But all of this covers up the loneliness of being the Dark Knight.
Trusty butler Alfred (Ralph Fiennes) wants Batman to accept that he’s afraid of starting a new family after losing his parents as a child. This opens the door for Batgirl/Barbara Gordon (Rosario Dawson) and the silliest ever take on Robin the Boy Wonder (Michael Cera) — who rips off his pants frequently to perfect that classic Burt Ward look — to try to show Batman the error of his solo ways.
Practically the entire Batman universe is on display in this movie, as is DC’s Justice League.
If Batman’s scene-stealing role in “The Lego Movie” led to him getting the solo Lego treatment, “The Lego Batman Movie” could be the gateway to Warner Bros and DC Entertainment finally having what has eluded them since they began trying to put their vast library of superheroes on the big screen: a money-making franchise that also gets mainstream critical acclaim.
2017 is perhaps WB/DC’s most important year ever. “Wonder Woman” and “Justice League” are on the way, with no guarantees that the critical drubbing that has dogged DC’s live-action movie efforts so far will go away. And beyond this year, Affleck at first agreed to be the director of his upcoming solo Batman film, but he has removed that title from his utility belt, creating some uncertainty about its future.
“The Lego Batman Movie” is a much-needed positive start to 2017, and offers WB/DC an almost fail-proof, kid-friendly way of giving the Lego treatment to their other heroes.
That’s good news for WB/DC, who should now focus on making sure their live-action movies live up to the hype so they don’t lose the kids they’ll gain as fans.
But the biggest winner of all may be retailers. This movie is going to help sell lots of toys.
“The Lego Batman Movie” is an enjoyable reprieve from the live-action Bat-movie drama that is waiting for us in the future.