For the most part, “The Lego Batman Movie” is a giddy dance through the long and storied history of all things Bat-related. Bursting with in-jokes, send-ups, zingers and spoofery, all flying by at light speed, the picture goes about the business of lightening up the Dark Knight’s dour image with the greatest of glee.
Director Chris McKay even drops in a nanosecond-long clip of Adam West, TV’s long-ago Batman, giddily dancing in his baggy gray Batsuit. Along with variants of Neal Hefti’s Grammy-winning theme that pop up from time to time, a gag in which Lego Bat declares “We’re going to hit those guys so hard, words are going to spontaneously materialize,” and sure enough, “Sock!” “Pow!” do just that, the picture namechecks the old ’60s show and helps dispel the “why so serious?” sensibility that has cloaked Caped Crusader movies for the past several decades.
Inspired by and building off of the popularity of the character in 2014’s animated “The Lego Movie,” “The Lego Batman Movie” once again features Will Arnett giving voice to the Bat in growly, gravelly Christian Bale-inspired tones. He’s a narcissistic egomaniac who revels in the adulation of the crowd when he pulls off yet another Gotham-saving escapade. But when he goes home to the Batcave, he’s Mr. Lonely Guy, chomping on microwaved lobster thermidor while surrounded by his myriad Batgadgets and misting up as he watches “Jerry Maguire” — “you complete me” — all by his lonesome in his home theater. Sad!
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Funny too, is butler Alfred (voiced by Ralph Fiennes) getting on him about his gloomy-Gus ways — dressing in black and “listening to angry music” — and suggesting he face up to his greatest fear of allowing people to get close to him. Just the suggestion that he might have some issues he needs to work on sends him on frantic frenzy of childish “No! No! No!(ing),” skittering across the Wayne Manor parquet and up a flight of stairs as he tries to to drown out Alfred’s concerned counsel.
The guy who most wants to have him acknowledge that they have a close and meaningful relationship is The Joker (Zach Galifianakis). “You’re obsessed with me,” the maniac observes. “What we have is special.” They, ahem, complete each other.
Batman isn’t buying it. “You mean nothing to me.” Hurtful!
In the mix is eager orphan Dick Grayson (Michael Cera), soon-to-be Robin, gawking at the Batsub (“Don’t touch that!”) and the Batplane (“Don’t touch that either!”), and Barbara Gordon (Rosario Dawson) whose beauty fries the Batbrain, but whose philosophy that fighting crime should be a cooperative effort rather than the province of a peevish vigilante doesn’t sit well with the Bat.
The elaborate Legoness of the action sequences is visually stunning. All those colorful tiny pieces are lovingly rendered by computer wizards.
The action is frantic and the quips come thick and fast. The picture does get bogged down at the end with a bit too much psychodrama as Batman is tenderized and gets into a huggy mode with Robin, Alfred and Barbara.
Still, it’s mostly a “ Sock! Pow!” fun time.
The Lego Batman Movie
☆☆☆ 1/2 out of 5
Cast: Features the voices of Will Arnett, Zach Galifianakis, Michael Cera, Ralph Fiennes, Rosario Dawson.
Director: Chris McKay.
Running time: 1:44.
Rated: PG, for rude humor and some action.