Man, I was pumped to see The LEGO Batman Movie (104 minutes). This movie was going to redeem all the crap-tastic DC Universe films I’ve suffered through. It would be funny yet edgy, I told myself. It would showcase some of that DC humor my DC-loving friends keep insisting abounds in the comics. It would be as righteously awesome as its predecessor, The LEGO Movie, with a different but equally catchy theme song. Less angst, more Batusi — like in the 60s. At the end of the day, perhaps the weight of my expectations dragged at the film, because, quite frankly, I was bored.
The film is set after the events of The LEGO Movie in the LEGO version of Gotham. Joker (Zach Galifianakis) is trying to destroy the city while the Gotham Brain Trust runs in circles and I try to figure out why some young gun with sniper skills doesn’t just hang out on top of a tall building and wait for his moment to become the hero of Gotham by taking Joker out for good. Whoops. Was that too dark a comment in a review of a movie aimed at kids?
The opening sequence is highly kinetic, leading to a face-off between Joker and Batman (Will Arnett). This scene, which sets up a dichotomy between being the love of Batman’s life and his arch nemesis had potential but fell flat in execution. Maybe due to Galifianakis’ complete lack of appeal? As far as I can tell, the slightest cameo by Galifianakis manages to ruin even good movies. He’s the worst.
Anyway, Joker takes it personally and swears vengeance. Understandably, given the relative success rates of Joker vengeance plots, instead of quaking in his Batboots, Batman opts to swing by an orphanage and pass out Batswag in celebration of his latest victory, then return home to chow down on some Lobster Thermidor. The Lobster Thermidor keeps popping up, and I spent more time than I should have trying to figure out if it was some insider joke or comic book reference. By the way, after 20 minutes of searching, I know everything about Lobster Thermidor except why it was a central plot point in the film.
To move the plot along, Batman attends the retirement party of Commissioner Gordon and falls in love with Barbara Gordon (Rosario Dawson), the new Commish. The Joker crashes the party along with all the villains from the classic sixties version of Batman, 1989’s Batman, Batman Returns, Batman: The Animated Series, Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises, Batman Forever, and The Batman Movie That Shall Not Be Named, and a whole lot of other Batman properties. Most notable? The Condiment King, who is, I swear, an actual Batman villain.
The Joker surrenders and gift-wraps all the other villains for delivery to Barbara Gordon, changing Batman from a valued vigilante crucial to the safety of Gotham City into a rich poser who likes Bat-themed toys. It’s pretty funny, but that’s because I like it when cartoons make sad faces. Somewhere in there, Bruce Wayne manages to adopt Dick Grayson (Michael Cera). Perfect timing, because Batman needs a young and expendable acolyte to steal something that belongs to Superman (Channing Tatum).
Overall, I got what I paid for. Batman, but in LEGO form! This was a decent follow-up to The LEGO Movie, the references to other Batman properties came fast and furious, and, unlike some Christopher Nolan Batman movies I could mention, the plot was both reasonably coherent and possessed internal logic. I wish the film had lived up to my expectations, but given the lofty nature of those expectations, perhaps disappointment was inevitable. P.S. I will not be watching The LEGO NINJAGO Movie. It looks stupid.
Now playing at Patriot 14 + IMAX.