If anyone is wondering how a “LEGO Batman Movie” would work exactly, that question is partially answered within the movie's opening title credits, narrated by Will Arnett, the voice of LEGO Batman. This Batman is arrogant and self-reverential to the point of stubbornness, and that has made him deliberately a bit of a loner, but Arnett’s Batman constantly takes that ego to very funny levels.
But things are about to change when Batman’s alter-ego Bruce Wayne meets an impressionable young orphan named Dick Grayson (voiced by Michael Cera) who is looking to be adopted. At the same time, James Gordon has retired as Commissioner and his daughter Barbara Gordon (Rosario Dawson from Daredevil) has replaced him, and she has no empathy for vigilantes.
After the Joker’s latest plans to destroy Gotham, Batman decides the best way to get rid of him is to send him to the Phantom Zone, so he devises a plan to sneak into Superman’s Fortress of Solitude to steal Superman’s Phantom Zone projector.
Keeping up with things so far? Good.
Beyond the slew of non-stop jokes, the movie plays with a number of themes, including Batman dealing with loneliness and begrudgingly trying to find some sort of family to replace his dead parents. His conflict with the Joker also becomes about the Clown Prince of Crime wanting Batman to declare him as his #1 arch-villain and doing whatever he can to make that happen.
Essentially, it’s the same as any other Batman movie except that it’s funny -- VERY funny -- and that difference alone makes it the best Batman movie yet.
One of the interesting twists of this movie is having Barbara Gordon as a kick-ass police commissioner throughout most of the movie, instead of having her be Batgirl. It’s a choice that actually works quite well, and even Wayne's butler Alfred (as voiced by Ralph Fiennes) gets into the action.
Whichever Batman you’re a fan of -- whether it’s Nolan, Burton, or the ‘60s television's one -- all of them are paid tribute in McKay’s film. Fans of other LEGO licenses will be thrilled by some of the other cameos once the Joker unleashes the Phantom Zone army on Gotham.
The Justice League do show up en masse, but it’s as a nod to the cartoon Super Friends rather than an acknowledgment of the movie coming out later this year. The movie also doesn’t seem as much of an advertisement for LEGO as The LEGO Movie did, even though there are still mentions of the bricks.
To say more about cameos, jokes, etc; would probably ruin the enjoyment of a film that’s full of surprises, but it’s obvious director Chris McKay and the four credited writers had a lot of fun playing within the Batman mythos and are all clearly fans of the Caped Crusader.
If the LEGO DC Universe is going to continue to be a thing, here’s hoping they’ll do more theatrical releases like this, because this is a far more fun and family-friendly superhero universe than what we normally get.
The LEGO Batman Movie opens nationwide on Friday, February 10 with previews on Thursday night.