The best joke in Phil Lloyd and Christopher Miller’s The Lego Movie (2014) was that the world’s greatest detective was an obnoxious narcissist who liked heavy metal music and cared little for the people he saved.
Chris McKay’s The Lego Batman Movie takes off from that premise. Batman (voiced by Will Arnett) is the antithesis of the traits we have come to associate with the character. Lego Batman basks in the adulation of the people of Gotham. No criminal is strong enough to defeat him, so he has plenty of time to enjoy Alfred’s lobster thermidor and watch romantic comedies (Jerry Maquire is a favourite).
Only one similarity remains – Lego Batman is also unable to connect with the rest of humanity, which becomes a bone of contention between him and Alfred (voiced by Ralph Fiennes). Even the Joker (voiced by Zach Galifianakis) is annoyed, and he yearns to hear Lego Batman utter those three words: “I hate you”.
Batman’s trips to the cinema have been diverse. Andy Warhol’s 1960 television series explores Batman’s campy side with tight vests and goofy physical comedy. The 21st century has seen a more ponderous crusader of the night with a raspy voice and little humour in the films of Christopher Nolan and Zack Snyder.
The Lego Batman Movie takes elements from all these adaptations and serves them up as a bright and colourful concoction. The writers treat DC Comic’s most famous character with complete irreverence. After the heavy-handed and overly hardboiled nature of the character in the recent films, this comes as a welcome change.
A gallery of villains from past Warner Bros films turn up in the last act to destroy Gotham City. Some portions seem like a shameless ode to the Lego company, while other scenes celebrate the joy of seeing legendary characters interact with each other. At 105 minutes, the film occasionally becomes too cute for its own good. The plot is wafer-thin but the jokes fly thick and fast.