Lego Batman might not be the hero we need, but he's the hero we deserve. In a city where super villains run rampant and the police and regular citizens are helpless to stop them, we need a masked vigilante to step up and protect us. I'm not talking about Bernie Sanders and Washington, D.C., I'm talking about Batman and that more fictional hellhole known as Gotham City.
Will Arnett's Batman was one of the breakout characters of 2014's surprisingly awesome "The Lego Movie," so it was only a matter of time until he got his very own animated spin-off adventure. The Lego Universe's version of Batman is dark, isolated and mean, keeping his heart walled off from the rest of the DC superheroes and villains.
Part of the reason for this is Batman's (and Bruce Wayne's) back story of watching his family get gunned down during a mugging gone wrong, but he also has the combined pop culture history of every Batman story ever told. This Batman has the backstory of Christian Bale, Michael Keaton, Adam West, Kevin Conroy and over 70 years of comic books. He's been through it all, but the loss of his parents has kept him from making any lasting relationships.
Even the Joker (a perfectly cast Zach Galifianakis) just wants Batman to admit that he's is the caped crusader's nemesis and #1 most important villain. Yet Batman is so afraid of commitment and attachment that he can't even tell the Joker that he hates him. All he can do is say that he likes to "fight around" with as many different villains as he can.
"The Lego Batman Movie" is densely packed with jokes, excellent voice acting from some of the funniest people on the planet and eye-popping visuals, but the structure and story become exhausting and repetitive by the finale. Don't get me wrong, the film is a ton of fun and will take a dozen viewings before all the Easter Eggs can be unpacked, but by the fourth or fifth time Batman can't bring himself to apologize or say something kind to anyone, it becomes a bit unbearable.
Every animated film usually has some BIG MESSAGE it tries to impart to the youth in the audience. For example, "Zootopia" found subtle and lovely ways to layer the message that we don't need to fear what is different from us.
"The Lego Batman Movie" is laser focused on the idea of family and the idea that every single thing we try in life will be easier if you care enough to let people help you. This is a great message and an admirable one to try to impart, but the film's ham-fisted script hits those thematic ideas over the head so many times that, even with all the wildly entertaining jokes and flashing lights, I still found myself becoming bored.
As a pretty big fan of "The Lego Movie," this one ended up being a bit of a disappointment, but our heroes don't always deliver perfection. Sometimes they show up a little late, hung over from the night before and just want to make it home in time to catch a "Seinfeld" rerun. That's OK. Our heroes are people too.
Dir. Chris McKay