March 28, 2017

“The LEGO Batman Movie” is a surprising delight

A lack of expectations can sometimes be a film’s secret weapon. It’s not that I thought The LEGO Batman Movie would be bad, but it just wasn’t initially on my radar to any real degree. Go figure then, since this probably my favorite movie of 2017 so far. It works in a tremendous way. Opening this week, it hopes to be as beloved as The LEGO Movie was back when it opened. Going by the response I saw last weekend when I viewed it at a press screening, Warner Brothers has absolutely nothing to worry about. This will be a surefire hit.

The film is an animated action comedy following Batman (voice of Will Arnett) as he goes about his heroic ways. After an encounter with Joker (voice of Zach Galifianakis) and a huge assortment of cohorts that basically leaves Gotham City villain free temporarily, Batman/Bruce Wayne is left leading a lonely life, one pointed out to him by his butler Alfred (voice of Ralph Fiennes). He wanders Wayne Manor, pretending to be happy, but lacking a greater purpose. Potential salvation comes in the form of orphan Dick Grayson (voice of Michael Cera), who will become his Robin. There are themes of family and friendship running through, much like with The LEGO Movie a few years back. Mostly though, this is an excuse for clever chaos, and it truly delivers. Chris McKay directs a script from Seth Grahame-Smith, Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Jared Stern and John Whittington, while the rest of the ensemble voice cast includes the likes of Doug Benson, Mariah Carey, Jermaine Clement, Rosario Dawson, Adam Devine, Hector Elizondo, Ralph Garman, Seth Green, Chris Hardwick, Jonah Hill, Eddie Izzard, Ellie Kemper, Zoë Kravitz, Jason Mantzoukas, Kate Micucci, Conan O’Brien, Jenny Slate, Channing Tatum, Billy Dee Williams, and even SIRI herself. It’s fun stuff.

Almost everything works here, but what really shines brightest is how much fun the film is having with Batman himself. Whether it’s the callbacks to previous incarnations of the hero or fun being poked at its most recent version, there’s a tongue planted firmly in cheek. I delighted in those moments, as they seem to get the character in a real way, even if they’re having a laugh at his expense. One wonders if the powers that be over at WB will be paying attention to this at all. No one can say, but it’s interesting food for thought, if nothing else.

To be fair, this isn’t quite on the level of The LEGO Movie, so awards expectations must be tempered. Still, this seems like potentially a legitimate contender in Best Animated Feature and maybe even Best Original Song, much like that last flick. Of course, this is insanely early and those fields have yet to even come close to developing, but this is one of the first hopefuls to come down the pike. That alone is a bit noteworthy in my book. Maybe this one gets snubbed. Maybe it doesn’t. We have about 11 months to figure that out. Just know that the quality is there, and in February, that’s no small potatoes.

Overall, this Friday brings something really fun in The LEGO Batman Movie. A worthy successor to The LEGO Movie (continuing a franchise that will also include The LEGO Ninjago Movie later on this year) and a legit lighthearted Batman outing, there’s a ton to like about this film. The movie succeeds in a major way, likely paving the way for more flicks like this to come, and that’s a very good thing. This is the best big studio release of 2017 so far, so that alone makes it a must see. The year finally has an undisputed hit in the making. Bring the whole family and enjoy…

Be sure to check out The LEGO Batman Movie, in theaters everywhere this weekend!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He also contributes to several other film-related websites.

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