The Lego Batman Movie is the second big budget instalment of The Lego Movie franchise. This time, as the title suggests, the focus is squarely on Batman and his solitary brooding persona. He must choose between staying true to that persona or learning to work with others to save Gotham City from the Joker and his cronies. He must also face the responsibility of raising a son he absentmindedly adopted.
The Lego Batman Movie has been pitched as a kid’s movie that parents will like but I don’t think that’s accurate. It doesn’t really fit into that genre. It lacks the strong plot line and tightly written character arcs of those movies. It also lacks the inevitable softness that writing for sprogs usually produces. This movie feels more like a bunch of nostalgic forty-somethings sitting in a room trying to make each other laugh. It’d be more accurate to say that it’s a PG-rated adult’s movie that kids will enjoy. And it works.
The laughs come as thick and as fast as if you were watching a seasoned comedian do his thing. The commitment of the writing is to the laughs not to the story. The movie has a lot of nineties and naughties pop culture references, sprinkled with a few satirical truth bombs solely designed to get a laugh. This can drag a little but it has enough of a story arc to get you over that bump.
The best way I can describe the experience is it’s like watching an episode of Family Guy or American Dad, which is not surprising as the director helming the project is Chris McKennna, who has been a staff writer on American Dad. He is also known for Robot Chicken, an Adult Swim show that fits into this genre.
The tone of the movie is set by the auditory commentary from Batman right from the first black frame. You see it and hear Batman say, ‘black’. He then goes on to comment on the Warner Bros logo and the appearance of words on the screen that are there to set up the premise. This is a clever way of putting us firmly in Batman’s point of view and establishing his unfaltering conceit. You are left in no doubt that this is the Batman show. This requires an actor that can voice a complete narcissist who is still likable enough to bring the audience with him. Who better than Will Arnett who played Gob with aplomb in Arrested Development, a character with the exact same qualities. His gravelly voice and deadpan delivery is on point, perfectly matched to the tongue-in-cheek script. It never feels over the top.
The script itself is an homage to the 1960s Batman TV series starring Adam West. A TV show that was campy and known for its simplistic morality. There’s a nod to the show’s obsession with wearing seat belts and a fight scene that is punctuated by words in bubbles. To make sure that you don’t miss the connection there’s a brief sequence that runs through the various incarnations of Batman ending in a weird dance-fight scene featuring Adam West.
The movie’s only misstep is the heavy-handed treatment of the moral lesson in the story. It breaks the number one rule when preaching to kids—don’t make it obvious. If you haven’t got the moral lesson by the end of the movie it is kicked down your throat in the closing credits with an obligatory theme song called: ‘Friends are Family’. It feels like a paint-by-the-numbers attempt to cash in on the success of ‘Everything is Awesome’ from the first movie. They’re just ticking boxes. It seems like the song is only included so that the movie can fit into the kids’ movie genre. It doesn’t work for me.
Overall, if you’re looking for a movie with a great story line and a tightly written script then this movie is not for you, but if you’re just after a laugh you won’t be disappointed.