Set in the same universe as its predecessor, The Lego Batman Movie opens on the new, sassy and ever-cool Bruce Wayne (Will Arnett) as he battles to defend a ‘Lego-fied’ Gotham City from a who’s who of classic Batman villains. Batman’s sophisticated yet lonely lifestyle is interrupted when he accidentally adopts a teenage orphan (Michael Cera), who is eager to prove himself as Batman’s sidekick. Together with the new police commissioner (Rosario Dawson) and Wayne Manor’s trusty butler Alfred (Ralph Fiennes), Batman and his crew fight through onslaughts of pop culture’s worst supervillains – while Batman learns a few lessons about working together and letting people in.
This is a fairly paint-by-numbers film in terms of story. While it’s nicely shaped, even for a kid’s movie, it’s fairly easy to guess the entire plot ten minutes in. This lack of storyline is compounded again by some rather glaring plot holes and moments of conflict resolution that are just far too easy.
In any other film this would be a real letdown, but it’s clear that the story in The Lego Batman Movie is just a blank of canvas on which to paint an hour and a half of witty one-liners, farcical comedy and pop culture references. All of which are set to Animal Logic’s signature stop-motion animation that made the original Lego movie such a visual success. The Sydney-based studio has pulled out all the stops, rendering everything from explosions to rivers of water in perfect digital replicas of Lego bricks. The detailing of textures on the individual mini-figures is astounding and Animal Logic has seemingly one-upped themselves on their previous Lego Movie efforts. This film really is best seen on the big screen, if for no other reason than to properly appreciate the attention to detail in this visual smorgasbord.
The Lego Batman Movie’s real strength, however, lies in its comedic writing. Studios like Pixar are often credited with making an art out of writing for kids whilst still throwing a bone to the accompanying adults. In assuming that children will find ample entertainment in the simple, feel-good story and the overwhelmingly busy animation, it seems that The Lego Batman Movie unburdens itself of having to write comedy for children. Instead, it provides a masterpiece of consistent, quirky comedy for all ages. While the humour won’t be to everyone’s taste, my late-evening screening had the exclusively adult crowd in stitches from start to finish. The movie never takes itself too seriously, poking fun at everything, not least of all the last 50 years of Batman films. The Lego Movie was funny because of its alternatingly dry and silly tones of comedy. The Lego Batman Movie has aimed even higher than that in offering comedy that is smarter in its use of references and satirical social commentary. There is plenty of Lego slapstick for the kids, but the comedic range of The Lego Batman Movie is unusually wide and delightfully consistent.
This movie thrives on the fact that it was self-aware before the writers even put pen to paper. Nobody could have seriously expected a proper, gritty, action-style Batman film animated entirely in Lego, and what makes the film so strong is that it doesn’t try to be. The Lego Batman Movie seems far more content doing what Lego does best – creating crazy worlds and providing a fantastically good time along the way.