After the massive success The Lego Movie and living in the land of sequels as we do, it was inevitable we’d get another, the obvious choice being fan favourite Will Arnett’s Batman. Directed by Robot Chicken’s Chris McKay and written by five different writers who’ve worked on shows like American Dad and Community, including Seth Graeme-Smith of Pride & Prejudice & Zombies. Bruce Wayne must not only deal with the criminals of Gotham City, but also the responsibility of raising a boy he adopted. Including the voices of: Zach Galifianakis, Michael Cera, Rosario Dawson, Ralph Fiennes, Jenny Slate, Ellie Kemper, Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill, Hector Elizondo and Mariah Carey.
The parody begins from the first second the film starts, taking a jab at dark films and it does not stop from then till even after the credits begin to roll. As we meet Batman again, he is as you remember, selfish, vain and completely self-involved, just your typical Wayne complex. Before long Joker appears with his usual plans of destruction and mayhem, voiced by Zach Galifianakis, who is a fantastic and appropriate choice as a voice of a children’s film but to those adults in the audience, he’s a much less satisfying version, with a softer and more less threatening tone rather than the sharp, wicked tongue that’s been voiced by Mark Hamill or Heath Ledger or Jack Nicholson. His band of merry criminals however are a brilliant group of actors particularly Slate as Harley Quinn and Doug Benson as Bane, although only one of which would actually do well as the character in live action, you can guess who. Fiennes is the consummate posh Englishman and so an obvious and great choice for Alfred, giving them an interesting parent-child dynamic that’s fun to watch unfold as Batman continues to act like a 5 year-old vigilante. Whereas the actual child in the equation, Cera’s Dick Grayson, is hilariously naïve and desperate for attention, it’s almost creepy Cera can sound like a convincing child at the age of 28 but it works well.
As Joker’s master plan becomes apparent, where he’s heading pop culture references await, endless references to franchises, films and television which although are fun in the moment, stick around slightly too long. Though there’s plenty of digs at the Batman franchise itself, including a few mentions to the classic 60s series starring Adam West which is great to introduce to a new generation, as well as to the newer iterations and a few jabs at a certain fairly recent DC release. Looking at the film as a whole however, compared with the original, it feels much less nostalgic and certainly pushing hard on the parody button. One major problem is, although it is funny it simply isn’t written as well; the first half of the film is entertaining for all audiences but as the latter half appears, it dips down into overly obvious messages about teamwork and certainly more aimed at the younger members of the audience. The humour gives way to something cheesy and much too laboured, each joke is pushed so far to get out every single possible ounce of laughter that it is no longer funny, jokes which are directly on the nose, which is fine when mixed with other things but it’s extremely present for the entirety. Not to mention that Arnett’s Batman talks like a 15 year-old in today’s world, whether or not that’s positive is for you to decide.
Although there are many great moments and entertaining elements of The LEGO Batman, it doesn’t quite live up to the ecstatic reception it seems to have received; the film wanders into very obvious and worn territory. It’s genuinely surprising that it took five different writers to come up with what are funny but very simple jokes and sarcastic retorts. There is enough for all ages to enjoy with this film but it feels much more aimed at younger viewers, it doesn’t quite have the continuous energy and rewarding finish that The Lego Movie managed but is still enjoyable with some great voice work, Cera’s Robin is a definite highlight.