Spoilers may follow
When I saw Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders, I was glad to see a recent Batman movie that wasn’t afraid to embrace the silliness of a man going out to fight crime in a bat costume or poke a little fun at the darker iterations of the character. Well, The Lego Batman Movie is another such movie, only more so.
The Batman here (Will Arnett) may be a vicious, violent loner, but he also plays rock music when battling his foes, and watches Jerry Maguire in his spare time. He may prefer to work alone, but then he accidentally adopts a young orphan Richard Grayson (Michael Cera) who idolises both Batman and Bruce Wayne, and the new police commissioner Barbara Gordon (Rosario Dawson) wants Batman to work closer with the Gotham PD. As much as Batman hates it, teamwork is necessary to defeat the evil plans of the Joker (Zach Galifianakis).
Okay, so the story of a grumpy buzzkill learning the importance of friends isn’t exactly breaking new ground when it comes to animated features (nor even Lego Batman; the Lego Batman 2 game had a similar lesson for Batman to learn). It even comes off a bit like a reverse Despicable Me, given at one point Batman uses his newly-adopted ward to seize a ray gun for him. And let’s face it, given the amount of characters and vehicles that appear in this movie, they might as well have slapped a “Now available at all good toy stores” sticker onto every one of them.
However, none of that matters. It’s a big fat toy ad, but it’s a fun big fat toy ad.
There’s a true love of Batman and his world on display here – pretty much all the live-action Batman movies get Lego recreations in a montage, Joker’s previous plans are said to include two boats and a parade float, and Billy Dee Williams finally gets to play Harvey Dent as Two-Face here (though he sadly doesn’t appear much). The world and characters may be made of Lego, but the film is very visually impressive and has some nice character designs; my favourite design is that of the Joker, with his skull-patterned tie and waistcoat and razor-sharp teeth. Robin could have easily been annoying, but he manages to be funny and likeable, and this film probably has one of the best versions of Alfred and Batgirl in Batman media.
Kids will love the humour and action setpieces, especially the Joker’s big plan, which I won’t spoil here. I’ll just say it perfectly captures what a child thinks when playing with his toys. There’s also a lot of adults to like here too, from the nods to previous Batman adaptations to the enjoyable voice acting. It’s the perfect film for little and big kids alike.