Made in the style of 'The Lego Movie', Batman / Bruce Wayne (Will Arnett) joins forces with Barbara Gordon (Rosario Dawson), Alfred (Ralph Fiennes) and Robin (Michael Cera) to take on the worst of the worst in Gotham City - The Joker (Zach Galifinakis).
Not one person saw 'The Lego Movie' coming and if you pitched it now, you'd never think it would make sense. Yet, it was an absolute blast and so joyously entertaining and outrageously funny in parts that it almost felt like a fluke. The success meant that both a sequel and a number of spinoffs were put into production, the first being 'Lego Batman Movie' with Will Arnett reprising his role as the gravel-voiced Batman. What's clear from the opening bars of 'Lego Batman Movie' is that it wasn't a fluke and that smart, funny writing with inventive forms of animation, interested voice actors and a healthy dollop of self-awareness will always work.
Will Arnett's Batman is as you'd expect - churlish, self-centred, in love with his own mythos, all of the things that Batman has displayed throughout all of his iterations but never addressed fully. Here, it's all laid bare and makes for most of the jokes surrounding Batman. He purposefully keeps people away from him, he doesn't engage with friends because he's Batman and he has deep fear of commitment - manifested by his "on-again / off-again relationship" with The Joker, voiced by a miscast Zach Galifinakis. Ralph Fiennes, who voices Alfred, tries to reach him as a fatherly figure and it's only when Barbara Gordon and Robin come on the scene that Batman slowly, very slowly begins to develop.
Like 'The Lego Movie', the story of the film sounds utterly daft on paper and there's a level of ridiculousness to it that's very, very funny. The film points fun at the whole Batman franchise, from the '60s Adam West iteration right up to calling out the very idea of Suicide Squad as stupid. Yet, for all this self-effacing humour, it doesn't come off as smug or making fun of the audience for enjoying it. There's a real sense of playfulness and awareness, one recurring zinger pointing out how ridiculous it is that the police force consistently uses Batman instead of trying to actually solve a crime.
Arnett's Batman plays him like a spoilt child - which he is - whereas Michael Cera's Robin is a doe-eyed ultra-fan who just wants acceptance. Ralph Fiennes has some of the best one-liners in the film, all with the type of deadpan delivery you'd almost expect from Monty Python. Zach Galifinakis' Joker doesn't really have much in the way of humour, instead serving to drive the story along - but he's still far, far better than Jared Leto. Meanwhile, random cameos appear in the form of Channing Tatum voicing Superman as a jockish superhero, Mariah Carey (?!) as the mayor of Gotham and Jemaine Clement as Sauron. Yes, Sauron from Lord of the Rings turns up in this film.
While the final act might descend into an animation highlights reel like a real superhero film, there's more than enough warmth, humour and fun to be had with 'Lego Batman Movie' throughout. It may run a little bit over its time, but the rate of fire on the jokes and gags is such that you're never far from a laugh. More than a few of the jokes will have you wondering how they made it in, considering they're so biting and on-the-nose with the recent critical failures of Batman. Overall, 'The Lego Batman Movie' is as bright, funny and original as The Lego Movie and just as entertaining and enjoyable.