Of all the great things to come out of the surprise hit The LEGO Movie in 2014, Will Arnett’s turn as Batman was near the top. The combination of Arnett’s deep voice and deadpan delivery made for some of the funniest scenes in an already hilarious film, so when time came for a follow-up, centering it on his character was a no-brainer.
The LEGO Batman Movie has two things in its favor before audiences see even one scene. First is the cachet of the original, which became a monster at the box office because it appealed to kids while also poking fun at recent pop culture. The second is the domination of comic book movies in the past decade, even if Batman’s place in that world has become somewhat diminished.
Director Chris McKay and a host of screenwriters attempt to rehabilitate the Dark Knight’s image with a film that relentlessly mocks him and the character’s history, along with many other things. The story, such as it is, has Batman facing off against the Joker (Zach Galifianakis) on multiple occasions, becoming the unwitting adoptive father of Dick Grayson/Robin (Michael Cera), and adapting to the new police chief, Barbara Gordon (Rosario Dawson), who views Batman as unnecessary and even dangerous.
But the narrative framework is really just an excuse to throw as much mayhem at the screen as they can, and they succeed in that area mightily. This being a Warner Bros. movie, the film is packed full of characters from the studio’s multiple franchises. In addition to pretty much any DC Comics character you can think of, characters from Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, King Kong, and more pop up throughout.
In fact, the film is so full of sight gags, in-jokes, puns, pop culture references, and more that it is next-to-impossible to keep up. While this makes for nearly continuous entertainment for 104 minutes, it’s also the equivalent of eating dessert for that length of time. Even if you love it, there’s a point where it all becomes too much and you need a break.
It’s also way too top heavy with DC Comics characters. The introduction of the many, many villains that DC has to offer makes for a great joke early on, but the continued presence of a good chunk of them only serves to clutter up the movie’s landscape. DC Comics fanatics will love being able to spot obscure characters like Polka-Dot Man and Clayface, but they don’t really add anything on a storytelling level.
Fortunately, if you focus on the movie’s main characters, there’s much fun to be had. The antagonistic relationship between Batman and Joker is treated as codependent, and Joker’s never-ending attempts to get Batman to show him the proper hate he deserves is hysterical. Likewise, Robin’s hero worship of Batman and Batman keeping him at arm’s length is the source of much comedy.
It appears as if the makers of The LEGO Batman Movie felt it was necessary to go hog wild to try to live up to the burgeoning reputation of the franchise. While that makes for a lot of fun, dialing things back from an 11 to a 7 or 8 would have made for a more well-rounded experience.