The Lego Movie, proved that you could base a movie on a toy line without it feeling like a soulless, empty cash in. It was a lovely shock. Now capitalism demands a follow up. As much as we all liked the 2014 effort the thought of a Lego cinematic universe is fatiguing in a world lousy with extended universes.
This spin off features Batman (voiced by Will Arnett, excellent) fighting a plot by the Joker which involves the invasion of Gotham by a whole bunch of toy sets, all based on Warner Brothers properties. The selfish, lonely bat-vigilante needs to learn to play well with others in order to defeat this Argos catalogue of villains.
That all sounds gross and it would indeed be if this wasn’t consistently hilarious. The jokes make you laugh and so all else is forgiven. If this is an ad it’s a very funny one.
This is also, amazingly, a story where our little plastic characters’ personalities take centre stage. The parody plot pokes fun at superhero cliché throughout but also has fun at Batman’s expense. In portraying the character as a self regarding ass The Lego Batman Movie feels like a clearer, more coherent take on the character than Batman V Superman. Its meta gags also feel like a less infantile Deadpool. A big part of what makes this work is the all star cast making the exchanges feel fresh, fun and silly.
If you squint you can see the beginning of creeping Shrek-ification. A few too many jokes revolve around a cultural reference being thrown into a scene. The ability to identify things from elsewhere in pop culture will thrill bright children and dull adults alike. Hopefully three films down the line we don’t end up with dance party credit sequences and jokes that children shouldn’t understand being thrown in as a sop for the parents.
90% of the time this is a wonderful, energetic superhero parody. Toys get smashed together gleefully and every few minutes the voice talent will make you fall in love with a supporting figurine (”Oh, wow, it’s Sauron and he’s voiced by Jemaine Clement!”) DC should take note. This is how you tell a multi hero story that doesn’t feel like a hair shirt for the audience.
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