“The Lego Batman Movie” went from “Everything is Awesome” to “Aren’t I Awesome?” The idea that “if you can’t be yourself, be Batman” works great in a meme, but it only sustains about 30 minutes of inanity in this film. The movie’s one punch line is, “I’m Batman.” Now watch me try on a mariachi themed bat suit, or admire my Bat Kayak and Shark Repellent.
A premise like that isn’t hard to love. “The Lego Batman” movie has all the irreverent, screwball humor of the original “Lego Movie” and the same remarkable attention to detail. The animation is breathtaking, the pop culture references span generations, and the product placement is charmingly, aggressively in your face.
Director Chris McKay’s film opens with a madcap action sequence in which The Joker (Zach Galifianakis) is plotting to destroy Gotham, igniting a bomb that will destroy the table their world is built on and send everything into the unknown below (yes, this film isn’t afraid to break the fourth wall either). But then who arrives on the scene but Batman (Will Arnett)? Yay! He was disguised as the mayor the whole time! He takes care of his abs and always pays his taxes! Watch out for those laser guns (pew pew)! Batman foils Joker’s plan, but he won’t admit that the Joker is his greatest villain, or that he needs him in his life. Aww, poor Joker. Let’s put a smile on that face!
It’s not as if “The Dark Knight” didn’t have Bruce Wayne grappling with his existential grief, or see him push away the only people in his life who care for him. But Christopher Nolan’s movies didn’t have Batman watching his lobster thermidor heat up in a microwave for 30 incredibly awkward seconds. “The Lego Batman Movie” should actually be commended for finding new depths to Batman’s character that even a child can understand. “You can’t be a hero if you only care about yourself.”
But yes, being alone is bad, friendship is good, Superman’s a jerk for not inviting Batman to his party with the rest of the Justice League, let’s move the show along. “The Lego Movie” doesn’t lose near as much steam as this film because it had a third act surprise that jolted everyone back to life, and the whole movie wasn’t built on one premise (it also had a SPACESHIP!!!). “The Lego Batman Movie” ends up playing like a kid’s fantasy gone on way too long, where he or she’s adding endless new layers and elaborate pew-pew laser battles long after his or her parent has lost interest.
I’m as thrilled as anyone to have a few more minutes of Will Arnett doing super gravely voice acting and singing kid-friendly metal about darkness. So in that sense, this is “The Lego Batman Movie” we need, just not the one we deserve.