Forget the grimness of “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” and the darkness of “The Dark Knight” trilogy. “The LEGO Batman” movie has arrived to make the billionaire vigilante who dresses like a bat silly again. And everything is awesome.
Spun off from the wildly popular “LEGO Movie,” “The LEGO Batman Movie” has Will Arnett bringing his gravelly voice back to the minifig superhero who relishes moody theme songs and doesn’t do relationships. Sure, from the outside, Batman’s life seems perfect: He’s Gotham City’s unstoppable hero, defeating armies of bad guys without breaking a sweat. But when he returns to his secret hideout beneath Wayne Manor, his is a lonely life spent brooding over photos of his late parents, swimming solemnly with his pet dolphins, and microwaving lobster dinners for one. But when the Joker (a jaunty Zach Galifianakis) unleashes crossover carnage — that includes villains from “The Lord of the Rings,” “Harry Potter” and “Doctor Who,” to name a few — Batman must learn to work as a team with his trusted butler Alfred (a salty Ralph Fiennes), Commissioner Barbara Gordon (a side-eying Rosario Dawson) and his newly adopted son Dick Grayson (a hysterically hyper Michael Cera).
The plot is simple, but smartly allows plenty of opportunities for the filmmakers to play with their already-beloved heroes. Inside the Batcave, audiences can giggle and awe over an insane arsenal that includes a Bat-Zepplin and Bat-Kayak as well as a cavalcade of ludicrous costumes for every improbable occasion, from GlamBat to Reggae Man. And outside, Batman’s pre-established Master Builder status allows for inventive action scenes with as much quirky construction as block-tumbling destruction.
There’s also room for allusions to every Batman movie to date, sure to make fans squee with recognition. Characters reference the events of “Dark Knight” and “Batman,” and the film offers flat-out recreations in LEGO form of iconic scenes from “Batman Returns,” “Batman v Superman” and more. Plus, LEGO Batman and his crew revisit such classic catchphrases as, “You want to get nuts? Let’s get nuts!” There’s even a full-on cutaway to the Batusi. And Batman devotees will thrill that Joker’s army of baddies not only includes such well-known villains as Catwoman, Two-Face and The Scarecrow, but also such ludicrous criminals as Crazy Quilt, Polka-Dot Man and Condiment King. (“It’s worth a Google!”) Simply put, “The LEGO Batman Movie” is perfect fun for Batman fans of any age or era. Yet you don’t need to be a hardcore Batfan to get in on the fun.
With 43 episodes of the frenzied and funny animated sketch show “Robot Chicken” to his credit, director Chris McKay is an expert at piling on jokes and pop-culture quips. So, “The LEGO Batman Movie” is packed tight with a dizzying array of humor, from slapstick to one-liners and from biting banter to some brilliantly timed lingering lunacy. Arnett once more brings a hysterical blend of arrogance and obliviousness to his growling Batman, which plays beautifully against Galifianakis’ wacky but easily wounded Joker.
Once Joker calls himself Batman’s “greatest enemy,” the green-haired ghoul is instantly deflated when the Brick Knigh rebuffs, “I’d say I don’t currently have a bad guy, I am fighting a few different people. I like to fight around.” The exchange is fun, but what makes it side-splittingly hilarious is lingering on the Joker’s face, which trembles with disappointment as Batman breaks his dark little heart. Just when you think the film will cut away, it stays and stays and stays. And you’ll laugh again and again and again. McKay is such a comedy master that he makes Batman waiting on his microwave one of the funniest moments 2017 is likely to see.
And the voice cast brings all these silly minifigs to radiant life. Aside from the awesomeness of Arnett and Galifianakis, Cera is adorably silly as the ever-overzealous Robin (“What’s the vigilante policy on cookies?”), who loves his Batdad as intensely as he loathes pants. As Barbara Gordon, Dawson often grounds the film’s emotional stakes, but also makes a stellar straight man for Batman’s outlandish outbursts. Beyond that the supporting cast is stuffed with “that guy” actors and actresses who bring verve, like Ellie Kemper, Jemaine Clement and Eddie Izzard. Picking out your favorite comedians as their characters zing through is like a bonus game within this intensely entertaining romp.
All in all, “The LEGO Batman Movie” is a total blast. Packed with color, character, wit and energy, it’s not afraid to get silly, but smart enough to layer in meta humor that’s sure to reward rewatching.
“The LEGO Batman Movie” opens Feb. 10 nationwide.