February 12, 2017

Everything is Still Awesome in The LEGO Batman Movie

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Remember in 2014, when The LEGO Movie neared its release date and many of us were ready to laugh and ridicule it? Things sure have changed since then. The LEGO Batman Movie has been on my radar since the first teaser dropped early last year, and I’ve been hotly anticipating it all this time. It’s also the first major animated release of the year, and after more than a month of downtime, I’m happy to finally put my reviewer hat back on. My happiness is doubled by the fact that I get to kick off my reviews with such a delightful movie. And sure enough, LEGO Batman, directed by Chris McKay, gives us a fast-paced delight that expands on its predecessor and delivers even more thrills and laughs.

The LEGO Batman Movie stars Batman (of course), voiced by Will Arnett, reprising his role from 2014, and he’s just as boastful and self-parodying as ever. He lives the bachelor’s life, he’s the sole hero of Gotham City, he has a massive mansion all to himself and he’s content with that. However, his life begins to crumble when his butler, Alfred (Ralph Fiennes), demands that he start taking responsibility for his own well-being. The issue is further exacerbated when the new commissioner, Barbara Gordon (Rosario Dawson), begins to change the rules of Gotham. In addition, Batman ends up accidentally adopting an excitable boy named Dick Grayson (Michael Cera), saddling him with the monumental task of balancing his alter-ego with the responsibilities of parenthood. And if that wasn’t enough, the Joker (Zach Galifianakis) has a secret plan for revenge after he finds out he’s not Batman’s number one enemy. Add all these elements together, and we get a mad adventure that ends up being not only Gotham’s weirdest and most dire hour, but also a wake-up call to Batman that his perfect life may not have been so perfect after all.

Now, I do want to start with my criticism. The weakest part of the movie is its pacing: the opening hits the ground running and is mayhem and chaos for about ten minutes. Then it suddenly slows down — or more appropriately, hits the brakes. Now the speed does slow down for a reason: it contrasts the hectic life of Batman on the streets against his lonely home life. It just feels so sharp and jarring that it makes the jokes in this segment feel like they come too slowly. Plus, there are a couple of scenes that I thought were the “belly of the beast” moment, where the hero faces the greatest peril, only to find out we weren’t there yet. It’s not a movie-breaking problem, but it definitely keeps it shy of a perfect score.

That negativity out of the way… this is a fun movie. This is a very fun movie. While there are some problems with pacing, it still works smoothly enough to keep the film moving forward. Oh, and the humor… the film has a very high gag-to-laugh ratio, and you’ll get all kinds of jokes here. In fact one of my favorite jokes is still making me chuckle aloud as I’m writing this. As is appropriate for a project titled The LEGO Batman Movie, the source of a lot of the best gags comes from the Batman lore itself. Remember that ridiculous bat-shark repellent? You can bet that LEGO Batman does, and he also thinks it’s ridiculous. The movie both pays tribute to the beloved Dark Knight trilogy and takes a jab at the ridiculed Batman and Robin. It even takes aim at recent movies such as Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad (it’s so nice to see a studio willing to make fun of itself). In short, it celebrates everything cool about Batman and laughs at everything ridiculous about Batman.

A lot of the humor comes from the supporting characters as well. Dick Grayson is the starry-eyed orphan who’s just happy to be along for the ride, eager to make his new dad proud. Alfred is Batman’s surrogate father, tired of his nonsense and trying to read up on how to deal with unruly children. Barbara Gordon is a no-nonsense commissioner who recognizes the good work her dad accomplished with Batman, but still wants to return to law and order without the aid of vigilantes. The Joker… he just wants to be recognized as Batman’s number one bad guy, in a laugh-inducing reverse bromance: “You never ONCE said ‘Joker, I hate you!’” The way they bounce off each other creates not only great laughs, though, it also creates real heart. Just like The LEGO Movie, roaring good comedy is combined with effective pathos to create a story that’s not only fun, but heart-warming, too.

Warner Animation Group has a lot more LEGO movies planned. In fact, we got a trailer before the movie for The LEGO Ninjago Movie. I do feel concerned that they could get burned out from making so many LEGO movies, but so far, they don’t show any signs of losing steam. Everything is alright in LEGO Batman’s neck of the woods at least. So, go get yourself and the family together to see The LEGO Batman Movie, and make your day a little more awesome.


David Gouldthorpe is a junior in the School of Industrial and Labor Relations. He can be reached at [email protected]