I’m going to start this review by saying that if you missed 2014’s “Lego Movie,” you missed out on one of the best movies in recent years. That movie was one of the funniest, happiest and just most joyful films to come out since…Well, just pick your favorite Pixar flick, and you’ll get the gist of what I’m trying to say. You shouldn’t feel bad if you missed it, as “The Lego Batman Movie” captures that same magic and is an absolute treat.
At the same time, “Lego Batman” isn’t just “The Lego Movie: the Do-Over,” but is its own film that stands apart from the other movie made with Legos (excluding all movies made with Legos on YouTube). It was playful, simply told and was delivered with a ton of heart.
There are two particular types of movies that are hard to do well: children’s movies and Batman movies. Children’s movies need to balance jokes with story, as well as jokes for children with jokes for everyone else. Bad children’s movies deserve the label of “children’s movie”—as in only children could enjoy it. But good children’s movies really are just good movies.
Batman movies also reside on a precarious cliff top, so to speak. Too much gruff and not enough self-awareness, and you’ll get overly serious movies like “Batman v. Superman” or “Batman Begins.” Too much comic-book wackiness and you end up with nipples on your bat suit.
Even the absolute hands-down best Batman movie, “The Dark Knight,” still suffers from the sheer ridiculousness of a realistic Batman . Just listen to Christian Bale’s Batman voice (or any of those College Humor videos making fun of the voice), and you’ll know what I’m talking about.
“Lego Batman” makes an excellent move in this respect. Instead of trying to keep up with this challenging balancing act, it points out just how generic and absurd Batman movies can be. It’s not just self-aware, it’s series-aware. This movie’s Batman isn’t just “Lego Batman,” he is every single filmic iteration of Batman rolled into one, and not only does the movie play with it, it makes it a critical part of the story.
Everything about this Batman is Batman turned to 11, and it is absolutely wonderful. The character is obsessed with his abs, loves to make heavy metal rap and adores the color black. But these are all just kinda quirky character traits; like I said, this Batman is every single other version of Batman that’s ever been on screen before. This means is that this Batman is a supremely narcissistic jerk who’s scared of attachment. The film revolves around Batman’s crippling loneliness.
Batman is both the protagonist and the antagonist of this film. The story deals with both his search for a family and his relationships and is told with the biggest bricks possible. There’s no way anyone could walk out of this film and not pick up on these themes. Sometimes the movie even stops to have a character lecture Batman about his relationship issues.
And you know what? The movie gets away with it. Not because it is made for children, but because the whole movie is about doing things in broad strokes: The story is simple, it’s told with Legos and it’s about a narcissistic man in a batsuit. And just because the story is told in bold text doesn’t mean that it lacks subtlety. I thought that the way it presented “ideal” relationships was way more thoughtful than one might suspect a movie made with Legos would be.
This sort of self-awareness for a film is so refreshing. This movie knows exactly what it is and what story it wants to tell. It’s about Lego Batman, and it’s about his issues.
So the story is all well and good, but what about the rest of the film? Does the Lego aesthetic hold up for a second film? I will say that if you liked the first “Lego Movie” you will certainly enjoy this film. The movie doesn’t repeat the idea of the world being a kid’s imagination, but it still playfully pulls characters and objects from all sorts of different fictional series (with some characters who showed up in the last film).
And the jokes? I know it’s not original to say that a movie like this has jokes for audience members who are over 12, but this movie was hilarious outside of its more gag-based jokes.
Going back to something I said earlier in this review, this movie is fun. It feels like it wasn’t just made for children, but made by children (this is a compliment). This movie, like the first “Lego Movie” before it, captures that sense of childish storytelling that is exceedingly simple and infinitely charismatic. I also love that it was able to not only be this simple and fun, but also to tell such a heartfelt story about such an overdone character. Even though this movie is made out of plastic, it’s anything but lifeless.