“The LEGO Batman Movie” is a hilarious, excellently animated film. However, despite its best efforts, it falls short in comparison to the narrative brilliance of the original. Three years ago, “The LEGO Movie” amazed audiences and reached worldwide critical acclaim. With its tongue-in-cheek pop numbers, meta references and a captivating plot, “The LEGO Movie” seamlessly generated animated cross-demographic appeal, usually reserved for Disney and Pixar productions. Warner Animation Group’s first production in 11 years, the film featured innovative animation technology.
With “The LEGO Batman Movie,” audiences can witness the same technology in action with Will Arnett as Batman. The new film doubles down on everything that made “The LEGO Movie” great, above and beyond its predecessor. While the first was a funny film, “The LEGO Batman Movie” seems packed with visual gags, double entendres and outside references. The movie leans on the main character, exploiting its storied cinematic past to draw laughs from every generation in the audience — even featuring a small live-action clip of the Adam West version of “Batman.” Following the footsteps of its predecessor’s pop hit “Everything is Awesome,” the film offers various musical numbers. The jokes are well-crafted, preventing a tedious dynamic.
The animation is perfect for the film. Much like its predecessor, “The LEGO Batman Movie” masterfully uses LEGO bricks to create fun, bright and varied sets and characters. The film presents universally connectable bricks that create a continually changing world, reordered by Batman and his “master building” skillset. Overall, it adds to the film’s imaginative, hopeful nature — everything is possible in this world, where giant robots are quickly built out of spare pieces knocked from falling buildings.
However, the film feels slightly empty in a way that “The LEGO Movie” never did. While packed with fun, entertaining sequences, “The LEGO Batman Movie” lacks the heart that kept “The LEGO Movie” smooth and effortless. While Batman’s heartening family narrative is sure to captivate, the general plot feels weak and underdeveloped, relying too heavily on visual gags. However, the film acknowledges this deficiency with skillful self-referential humor. Surprisingly, the film’s emotional high point rests in the Joker’s arc, as he realizes he wants Batman’s attention and spends the film trying to get it. The film’s shift in director and writing staff may be behind its major flaws, losing the talented Phil Lord and Christopher Miller duo, which did the original film. While the movie fails to live up to the greatness of “The LEGO Movie,” it remains superior to most animated films.
“The LEGO Batman Movie” follows a darker, edgier path than its predecessor. While battles, explosions and bombs are constant, the film’s tone remains innocent and good-humored for all audiences to enjoy. Still, the main characters are placed in constant danger, which can upset some of the younger viewers.
The movie’s polished style shines through its star-studded voiceovers. Will Arnett flawlessly portrays Batman, capturing both the comedic and stern nature behind the enigmatic hero. Zach Galifianakis is unrecognizable as the Joker, playing a surprisingly tender and lovable version of the character. Michael Cera as a bumbling, lovable Robin steals the movie. Rounding out the main cast are Rosario Dawson as Commissioner Gordon’s daughter Barbara and Ralph Fiennes as Alfred.
Overall, the film is all you can ask for as a follow up to “The LEGO Movie.” It stands on its own as both a comedy animation and a Batman film. However, it understands its roots a little too well. It sets to imitate its predecessor, almost to a fault. It found what resonated with audiences in the original LEGO film, and hit those beats again, stronger and more frequently. It walks the careful line between satire and homage, a tightrope that too many “Batman” films have failed to achieve. The movie may not always succeed in execution and finesse, but its heartwarming and ebullient message is sure to resonate with audiences of all ages.