Another film kept coming to mind as I watched The Lego Batman Movie. It wasn't any of the other Batman films, which now stand at 10 with more on the way. Nor was it the debut of Will Arnett's scene stealing Caped Crusader in 2014's original Lego Movie, the funniest, cleverest and most soulful toy advert in existence. No, weirdly, it was Cabin in the Woods, Drew Goddard's expert and hilarious evisceration of the teen horror movie, which pretty much cuts the balls off an entire genre for the sake of a great hour and thirty minutes.
It kept cropping up because, make no mistake, The Lego Batman Movie is proudly holding up Batman's balls. From the beginning, it finds the threads of Batman's very existence as a character (the extensive and often ridiculous Rogues' Gallery, the numerous depictions, the suits, the wonderful toys) and pulls to unravel them for your amusement. And it is very, very amusing. A little busy and lacking the soul that made The Lego Movie so exceptional and surprising but amusing nonetheless. There is an awful lot to enjoy here and great fun to be had but it fails to completely click into place.
The remorseless cut-up of our leading block doesn't help. While Arnett's egomaniacal Batman was frequently the funniest thing on screen in the original, his elevation to star attraction can begin to grate a little bit. It's Loner, I Don't Need Help, Staring at Pictures of His Dead Parents Batman we're getting here, which is perhaps one of the lesser seen of the screen Batmen, to the film's credit. It's a difficult one to address in any of the more "serious" non-animated Batman movies with perhaps Batman Forever being the only one to really give it a shake.
Yes, he's a loner alright. He doesn't even need his enemies, as he tells a heartbroken Joker (Zach Galifianakis, who Batmansevery single scene he's in) at the end of the incredible opening fight. But the emergence in his life of adorably freneticorphan Dick Grayson (Michael Cera) and Barbara Gordon(Rosario Dawson),as a Gotham Police Commissioner who wants to co-operate with Batman rather than use him as a one-man SWAT team, are going to challenge Batman's solitary worldview.
"Yay teamwork!" is pretty much the subtext here. This goes for both the heroes and the villains, as the Joker reaches beyond the realms of the DC Universe for help in hatching his greatest scheme ever. The universe bending features heavily in the end-game of The Lego Batman Movie. It was a cherry on top of an already succulent cake in The Lego Movie but the lustre has somewhat dimmed a little here. Director Chris McKay (and a Super Friends-sized team of writers) makes the pile-on the point.
It's a very pretty pile-on too, with the charming, clunky and visually arresting Lego aesthetic proving to be surprisingly expressive. The cast is game as well,with seemingly all 1000 of them (basically, check out every single guest ever of the podcast How Did This Get Made? and they're in here) getting a couple of zingers. It's fun, the gags are consistently funnyand it evokes the same feeling of a child playing with their toys as the original did, but it all feels a little hollow. You can only see the toys and not the very human hands playing with them.
3/5 - Everything is BATMAN!