Raleigh, N.C. — Let’s begin with a true statement. It may seem mean, and I guess it is, but I am not judging you. Batman is a dumb character.
That’s not to say The Dark Knight isn’t a great movie. It is. In fact, I’m a fan of all of Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies, but the Batman character is stupid and the idea of Gotham City is ridiculous. Those are the truths that drive The Lego Batman Movie, which is a spin off of 2014 Lego Movie, but that’s largely irrelevant.
There may be a little snark in this review, but I want to be clear. I loved this movie!
Did you read all the comic books? You’ll love how deep The Lego Batman Movie goes into the rogue's gallery. Are you old enough to remember the Adam West TV show? You’ll love the remarks on that series’ campiness. Even if all you know is The Dark Knight trilogy, you will get infinite joy out of Bane’s voice. You will find something to appreciate about this movie, no matter what your relationship with Batman.
The movie opens with Batman (Will Arnett reprising the role from The Lego Movie) foiling the Joker’s plans to blow up Gotham City. That would be bad enough for the Joker, but then he has to hear Batman talk about how not only does he not hate The Joker, he doesn’t even consider The Joker (Zach Galifinakis) to be his mortal enemy. It’s hero on villain emotional abuse!
Joker goes slightly crazier. Batman retreats back into Bruce Wayne’s lonely life filled with gadgets, lobster thermidor, and only one human companion, who happens to also be an employee.
Later, at a gala to celebrate the retirement of Commissioner Gordon and the accession of his daughter, Barbara, to his old job, Bruce Wayne accidentally adopts a kid. Also, the Joker and every other villain in Gotham shows up to peacefully surrender. From here, anything else I tell you will be spoiler-ish, so let’s call that the end of the recap.
There are two real charms of The Lego Batman Movie. The first is Robin (voiced by Michael Cera), who is maybe the best animated character since Frozen’s Olaf. His combination of wide-eyed optimism and general naiveté lead to some of the movie’s best lines.
The other charm is Arnett’s portrayal of Batman/Bruce Wayne as an oblivious doofus. He’s a moron both logically and emotionally. He’s not particularly charming. He can’t rap. People aren’t really lining up to be his friend. He won’t believe you, though if you point any of this out to him. Imagine if Rob Gronkowski were Batman. That’s this character.
My friend Lauren Brownlow over at WRALSportsFan.com once asked me if I thought people had seen Batman’s parents’ murder more than any other scene in movie history. It’s a fair point. It may have played out in every single Batman movie and even if it hasn’t, it’s been a part of so many blockbuster movies that I’m sure the math somehow works out. It certainly feels true and that’s enough for The Lego Batman Movie to mock it over and over again.
Name a Batman villain. They show up, even if it’s just for a fleeting moment in this movie. “Demetri, even Condiment King?” Yes, reader. Even Condiment King. “Demetri, what about Gentleman Ghost?” Yes. Him too.
Don’t think for a second that the filmmakers behind The Lego Batman Movie don’t love and respect these characters. Clearly they do. This movie merely revels in their absurdity. I think as soon as DC accepts that even their best superhero stories all start with a ridiculous premise and nothing about them should be sacred, they might actually produce a good movie.
Until that happens though, we have The Lego Batman Movie. Go see it. I don’t want to give away too many surprises, but there are so many moments that will leave you laughing and scratching your head that you will be tempted to see it more than once.
Demetri Ravanos is a member of the North Carolina Film Critics Association and has reviewed movies for Raleigh and Company, Military1.com and The Alan Kabel Radio Network.