Smartly irreverent regarding the Dark Knight’s storied history, this daftly fun franchise-booster loses steam. The kids will probably dig it.
Coming off the back of the joyous “everything is awesome,” mayhem of 2014’s The Lego Movie, The Lego Batman Movie pulls out that scene-stealing caped crusader who has already instigated several franchises, led by the likes of Tim Burton and Christopher Nolan.
It’s safe to say that the tone of this Gotham outing, directed by Robot Chicken’s Chris McKay is a good deal lighter. With Bojack Horseman voice actor Will Arnett donning the cowl, it opens on a wonderfully OTT plan by iconic nemesis the Joker, voiced by Zach Galifianakis, who intends to bury the city by blowing up its power station, thereby sparking a catastrophic earthquake (a sly nod to the comic book’s Cataclysm/No Man’s Land year-long storyline).
The clown prince is not acting alone, however. Instead he has assembled pretty much the entire rogues gallery including Jenny Slate’s Harley Quinn, Conan O’Brien’s Riddler, Billy Dee Williams’ Two-Face, Zoë Kravitz’ Catwoman and Riki Lindhome voicing Poison Ivy. There are even a few hilariously hokey villains from Bats’ sillier comic book back catalogue, including the Condiment King. For reals.
Determined to work solo, Bats’ alter ego Bruce Wayne returns to the mansion to mope alone in front of family portraits (thankfully no repeat of the origin story here) while Ralph Fiennes’ honeyed vocals Alfred serves him reheated lobster thermidor.
With genuinely whip smart visual jokes referencing everything in the Dark Knight’s 75-year plus history from the barmy Adam West iteration to the incomprehensible Bane (Doug Benson here), there’s as much to love for parents as the little nippers for a decent stretch, and ambiguous teasing of just what the nature of Joker and Batman’s relationship is.
There’s some sweet stuff too in Alfred’s coaching Bruce to build a new family, namely taking in Michael Cera’s Dick Grayson and collaborating with Rosario Dawson’s kick-arse new police commissioner Barbara Gordon, the future Robin and Batgirl respectively.
Sadly, the joie de vivre runs out of steam eventually, descending into attention deficit mess and noise that ropes in the bad guys of multiple other franchises, including vocally exterminating though never named Daleks and, most oddly, The Lord of the Ring’s fiery eye tower Sauron, voiced by Flight of the Conchords’ Jemaine Clement. Even more oddly, Voldemort turns up but isn’t voiced by the on-hand Fiennes, instead given over to Eddie Izard.
Always bright and colourful, if a little too loud at times, it’s daft enough the kids will probably dig it, though adults may find themselves mentally checking out about an hour in.
Stephen A Russell @SARussellwords