No really, I’m not kidding. With all due respect to Christopher Nolan, “The Lego Batman Movie” is the best Batman, probably even the best DC, movie I’ve ever seen.
What it does that very few other superhero movies have been able to do is not take itself too seriously. “The Lego Batman Movie” is completely and unapologetically nutty. Following Will Arnett’s (“BoJack Horseman”) character 2014’s “The Lego Movie,” the film follows a buildable brick Bruce Wayne A.K.A Batman who fights crime by day and retreats to a life of microwaved lobster thermidor and solo screenings of “Jerry Maguire” at night. The Joker (voiced by Zach Galifianakis, “Keeping Up With the Joneses”) wreaks havok on Gotham City, but — as many Batman movies before have suggested — the biggest threat to Batman is himself.
The plot takes its time getting started, spending a large part of its first half walking the audience through Lego Gotham city. And when it does begin to gain speed, the route it takes is familiar, but not for a minute boring. It does what “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “Deadpool” did before it: Takes a familiar structure and has fun with it.
Arnett helms the surprisingly star-studded cast as Batman with lovable manchild Michael Cera (“This is the End”) as the orphan Bruce Wayne unknowingly adopts. It clear from the onset “The Lego Batman Movie” is a big game of “Whose Voice is That?” Mariah Carey, Rosario Dawson and Jenny Slate round out the core cast.
Like most animated movies, its humor works on two levels. When the Joker is upset to find out he’s not Batman’s greatest enemy, the moment is funny in its absurdity, resonating with an older audience all too familiar with dating in the age of Tinder. But there aren’t explicit “parent jokes” or “kid jokes” as the movie manages to play to the entire audience at once.
Even more than it is funny, “The Lego Batman Movie” is clever. In its hundred minute runtime the film manages to reference every single prior Batman movie from the tragically bad “Batman v. Superman” all the way back to the 1940’s comic series. Pop culture and historical nods are woven throughout with riffs on anything from Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror” to “Lord of the Rings.”
The animation takes the precident set by “The Lego Movie” and amplifies it, turning building blocks into intricate visual spectacles. A scene in which Batman pursues the Joker through a house of mirrors looks like it could be Stanley Kubrick’s imagining of a superhero showdown. “The Lego Batman Movie” elevates the expecations of visual beauty in mainstram animation, especially animation whose premiere goal is not aesthetics. We don’t have to choose anymore; anything can be beautiful!
It’s also clear that the animators have a strong understanding and appreciation for the source material — small plastic bricks. The attention to detail is so precise you can almost feel the searing pain of stepping on any part of the Lego world.
“The Lego Batman Movie” is pure fun. The perfect poppy, high-spirited 140-minute escape from the world. It’s exactly the kind of movie I’d prescribe for anyone who — like myself — has refreshed their Twitter timeline 65 times in the last hour waiting for the next stage of the apocalypse to unfold. To all the podcast-junkies, newfound news-addicts and general worriers of the world I say: go see “The Lego Batman Movie.” You deserve it.