The Lego Batman Movie

Parodying superhero movies

As a family comedy, The Lego Batman Movie excels, but as a parody, this film is virtually unparalleled. Its playful pokes at the explosion of superhero movies during the last 15 years proves that yes, you can make a blisteringly funny parody without falling back on sex gags and gross-out humor—and you can actually tell a better story in the process.

It pillories everything from the format of dark superhero movies to comics, cartoons, old TV shows, and hero-archnemesis relationships.

Three years have passed since Batman helped saved the universe in The Lego Movie, and he’s just as busy as ever fighting crime in Gotham City. He glories in his solitary life, playing in his mansion, taking pride in his abs and Bat toys, and basically ignoring Alfred’s lectures. He even hurts Joker’s feelings during a routine plot foiling. When Commissioner Gordon retires and his daughter Barbara takes his place, Batman thinks life will go on the same as always. But Barbara makes good points about Batman hurting more than he helps, and when Joker’s revenge for his hurt feelings involves every famous villain ever, Batman has to confront his fear of relationships in order to save the city.

For anyone who hasn’t yet seen the 2014 Lego Movie, Batman is a sequel only because of a few nods to the first movie. While the first film in the new Lego franchise leaned heavily on the concept of building and what it means to build creatively, Batman takes that Lego-come-to-life world and flies over the rooftops with it. It pillories everything from the format of dark superhero movies to comics, cartoons, and old TV shows (I think you know which one in particular) and even goes so far as to treat the hero-archnemesis relationship as, well, a relationship, with all the attendant baggage and potential for hurt as a romantic one has.

That this is all done with Lego figures is just icing on the funny. Other relationships get plumbed: the teacher/father figure and student relationship, the adoptive son and reluctant father relationship, the little-bit-romantic-but-mostly-just-platonic relationship with a coworker. In fact, there are a lot of pretty deep feelings expressed with a deft hand and a wicked sense of the absurd. How much of this lands with any impact on kids probably depends on their age and maturity level, but they’ll still have plenty to laugh at right alongside adults.

As raspy-voiced Batman, Will Arnett reprises his role from the first movie and leads a superb cast of voice actors: Zach Galifianakis as the Joker, Michael Cera as Dick Grayson/Robin, Rosario Dawson as Barbara Gordon, and Ralph Fiennes as Alfred. Other fun names from further down the cast list include Siri (yes, that Siri) as the Batcomputer, Channing Tatum as Superman, and Jonah Hill as Green Lantern. The cast is much, much larger, but you get the idea.

The interesting thing about this film is that even though it doesn’t need to be told with Lego people in a Lego world, there’s a certain freedom in the format. Just as the toys themselves give kids (and adults, let’s not kid ourselves) the freedom to create, the writers and directors have found a way to use the toys (and their few limitations) for great humor and warmth. Our theater showed a trailer for an upcoming movie based on the Ninjago line of Lego toys that made my husband laugh out loud, and that never happens with trailers. Will the writers and producers be able to sustain this level of funny? I don’t know, but I’d like to see them try.

The Lego Batman Movie is rated PG for some action and “rude” humor, but that rudeness is pretty mild.

 

All reviews express the opinions of the reviewer, not necessarily the views of Third Way.

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