As I was watching “The Lego Batman Movie”, my mind often went back to when I watched “The Lego Movie” three years ago. I did not expect much when I watched its trailer, but then I heard some good words from others, and, what do you know, it turned out to be one of my favorite animation feature films of 2014. While it is essentially a lightweight parody filled with lots of gags and references, watching its loony story bouncing around here and there was a pretty awesome experience, and it is a shame that I have not revisited this hilarious animation yet since I watched it at a local movie theater near my college campus.
One of the most humorous elements in that animation film was Batman/Bruce Wayne voiced by Will Arnett, who clearly had a ball as parodying that coarse, gravelly voice in Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies. Now he takes the main stage here in “The Lego Batman Movie”, and the movie is as funny and outrageous as you can expect from a Lego animation film. Although it is not as fresh and inspired as those numerous uproarious moments in “The Lego Movie”, most of its gags work well enough to elicit good chuckles from me at least, and the result is something a lot more fun and entertaining than that grim, joyless dud called “Superman v Batman: Dawn of Justice” (2016).
After the deliberately self-conscious opening monologue, the movie quickly starts with Batman’s latest adventure in Gotham City. His arch-nemesis Joker (voiced by Zach Galifianakis) attempts to endanger the city again as assisted by a bunch of various villains, but then, yes, Batman comes to take care of all of these bad guys and save the day as usual, and Joker is particularly insulted when he learns how much he is disregarded by Batman. After all, how can a comic book villain fully live the life of evil without the opponent’s recognition?
While he enjoys his another glorious triumph, Batman is reminded again of how his life has been glum and lonely. When he comes back to the Batcave which is hidden right below Wayne Manor, there is no one waiting for him there except his artificial intelligence computer, and he has to dine alone on a lobster dish prepared in advance by his faithful butler Alfred Pennyworth (voiced by Ralph Fiennes). Alfred genuinely worries about his master’s solitude which has lasted for many years, and we get a wry montage scene consisting of the recreation of several recent Batman movies – and an archival clip from that campy old TV series starring Adam West.
Alfred suggests that his master should be more social than before, and the chance comes faster than Batman expected. Jim Gordon (voiced by Héctor Elizondo), the commissioner of the Gotham City Police Department, is going to retire, and his successor is none other than his daughter Barbara Gordon (Rosario Dawson). Batman is instantly smitten with her right from their first encounter at the party for Jim Gordon’s retirement where he attends as Bruce Wayne, but then she announces her plan to have Batman in legal cooperation with the Gotham City Police Department, and that is the last thing wanted by Batman, who prefers to operate alone in his fight against crime.
Meanwhile, Batman comes across Dick Grayson (voiced by Michael Cera), an orphan boy who approaches to Wayne for getting some advices on adoption and then finds himself casually adopted by Wayne. Not so surprisingly, Dick gets involved with Batman not long after he begins to live in Wayne Manor, and we soon see how he comes to have that colorful uniform along with his new name.
While the plot thickens with Joker’s another devious plan, the movie keeps throwing many gags and references to be recognized. When Joker deliberately has himself banished to the Phantom Zone, we meet many familiar movie villains who have been incarcerated there for years, and the movie has a big chaotic fun as Joker unleashes all of them onto the Gotham City.
The action scenes in the film are quite busy and frantic, and I felt a bit exhausted during my viewing, but the movie fortunately does not lose its sense of humor even when it throws its characters into lots of crashes and bangs. I was tickled by the intentionally cheesy mode of the fight scene which is clearly influenced by West’s TV series, and I also like how a certain physical feature of Lego characters is unexpectedly utilized around the end of the climax sequence.
The cast members of the film are delightful on the whole. Will Arnett has a number of funny moments as wielding his character’s perpetual sullen side, and I must say his Batman performance is more engaging than Ben Affleck’s in “Superman v Batman: Dawn of Justice”. While Zach Galifianakis gives a zany villain performance, Rosario Dawson and Michael Cera are fine in their respective comic performance, and Ralph Fiennes, who has shown more of his unexpected comic side during recent years, gives a deliciously deadpan performance to savor. Many of the small supporting roles in the film are filled by notable performers such as Mariah Carey, Jenny Slate, Billy Dee Williams, Héctor Elizondo, Conan O’Brien, Zoë Kravitz, Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill, Eddie Izzard, Seth Green, and Jemaine Clement, and they also bring some extra jolliness to the film.
Although it is one or two step below the charm and energy of “The Lego Movie” and you may have some background knowledge for more appreciation of its countless gags, “The Lego Batman Movie” generates enough laughs to entertain its audiences. I was a bit disappointed because it does not have something as memorable as that hideously catchy theme song of “The Lego Movie” (Oh, no! It is played in my head again!), but it is still a nice, enjoyable animation film, and I hope other Lego movies to come in the future will be as entertaining as this at least.
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