Movie Review: The Lego Batman Movie

A tiny toy Batman turns out to one of the better renditions of the popular role

The Lego Batman Movie
Directed by Chris McKay
Voices Will Arnett, Zach Galifianakis, Michael Cera, Rosario Dawson, Ralph Fiennes

The DC comic universe, which includes Batman and Superman, has been been having a hard time at the box office compared to its rival Marvel, with its Avengers series. DC may have finally hit its stride. The Lego Batman Movie presents an animated world constructed of Lego toy pieces, with plastic toy characters in the lead roles.

The film throws an extremely wide net, as if a child playing with toys had simply mixed in everything they had on hand, regardless of any rules or logic, into a story that seems like it was made up as it went along. The screen is so filled with characters and toys that it will take several viewings to catch everything.

Batman is present of course, and caught in a jealous rivalry with Superman. The main villain is the Joker, but a whole range of villains turn up, including Condiment King. A bit less expected are Daleks from Dr Who, King Kong and characters from Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter. And some classic dinosaurs.

The live-action Batman films, which have been rebooted several times, have taken on a very dark tone, with truly evil villains and a borderline obsessive superhero. Lego Batman goes for a much lighter tone, with humor aimed at both young people and adults.

The plot emphasizes cooperation, conflict resolution, and the value of friends and family. Bruce Wayne, who is the alter-ego of Batman, is at first seen wandering lonely around his mansion watching the same Tom Cruise movie night after night. In the course of the film he learns to depend on other people and slowly accepts them into his life.

The overall look of the film, accomplished with 3D animation, is as if the entire project was made from Lego pieces. Airplanes, trucks, bridges and buildings all have that blocky look. The characters mostly have those oddly jointed legs, cylindrical heads and snap-on hair.

Even the flames look like translucent plastic. The story doesn't limit itself, either. Gotham City is rather elaborate. There are also scenes at Superman's Fortress of Solitude and in another dimension in outer space. The tale is also a bit hyperactive, jumping from one noisy crowd scene to the next at a rapid pace.

The story is boosted by a soundtrack of cheesy popular songs ranging from Harry Nilsson singing One (Is the Loneliest Number) and Cutting Crew's (I Just) Died In Your Arms to a cover of We Are Family. Parents may appreciate the re-purposing of the retro hits.

The film is a Danish-American co-production by toy company Lego and comic book company DC. Similar films by toy companies often seem like feature-length advertisements to introduce new dolls to buy. The Lego Batman Movie is actually made with a lot of care, and while it may help boost Lego sales, it stands on its own as a multi-layered action comedy.

Even people without children will find themselves sneaking in to see it.

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