Review – Holy Legos, Batman! (“The Lego Batman Movie”)

Admit it, the best part of 2014’s The Lego Movie was Will Arnett’s hilarious take on Batman. The goofy, super-narcissistic crime fighter that couldn’t save someone if their  life depended on it. And now we get an entire movie about him and his entire world, but look sharp! There’s a veritable who’s who of every DC hero & villain here, along with a plethora of others from Lord Voldemort to the Kraken.

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In this hilarious send-up, Batman (voiced by Arnett) is anything but a goof-ball like in the previous movie. It’s an amazing opening of battling the Joker (Zach Galifinakis) and his huge army of DC villains who plan on destroying Gotham City… again… but this time with a gigantic Lego bomb. Okay, so everything is Lego (duh!). In a dazzling display of machismo and daring-do, Batman single-handedly saves the day with his impressive shape-shifting Batjet. But in the interim, he actually hurts the Joker’s feelings by telling him that he’s not important in his life, leading to the Joker to seek the ultimate revenge on Batman.

The next day, Commissioner Gordon (Hector Elizondo) retires and leaves his daughter, Barbara (Rosario Dawson), as Gotham’s new commissioner, which Bruce Wayne/ Batman falls for instantly. But the Joker and his hoard of cronies crash the party, not for mischief and mayhem, but to… surrender? WTH? Batman (and Barbara) suspects his arch-rival is up to something and lock all of them up in Arkham Prison. But Batman wants more: he wants Joker banished forever into Superman’s Phantom Zone, but to do that he’ll recruit his accidentally adopted “son”, Dick Grayson (Michael Cera) to steal the Phantom Zone Projector gun from the Fortress of Solitude. A very funny scene.

But when the Joker is zapped into the Phantom Zone, his master plan takes root. The super-villains there (The Eye of Sauron, Voldemort, the Daleks, King Kong, et al) want out and join forces to leave, with the help of Harley Quinn (Jenny Slate) who release them to Gotham City. Utter mayhem and chaos is unleashed and Batman teams up with Robin, Barbara, and his faithful butler, Alfred (Ralph Fiennes) to fight the fiends. But feelings of losing them (like his parents) surface and Batman abandons them to fight the Joker alone. Big mistake. The Joker zaps Batman into the Phantom Zone forever while the city is being destroyed.

Fortunately, the Zone’s Gatekeeper, Phyllis (Ellie Kemper) makes the ultimate deal with Batman: his life for all the super-villains return. With that, Batman is returned to Gotham and re-teams with his new partners, deciding to call upon the Jokers old criminals he abandoned to help them out. Will his crazy plan work? Will the Joker be defeated and Gotham be saved… again? Will Barbara become Batgirl in the eleventh hour?

Now, you’d think with five screenwriters (FIVE!!) the script would convoluted, over-written, or just plain dumb, but happily that’s not the case. Thanks to Seth Graham-Smith, Chris McKenna (Community), Erik Sommers (Americann Dad), Jared Stern (Wreck-it Ralph), and John Whittington, the story is fast-paced, sharp, very funny, and loaded with SO many Batman movie and TV show references, that it will satisfy even the most ardent fanboy. AND it’s very kid-friendly, which I consider a plus in today’s film market. Okay, so the story is simple with a re-cycled plot, but the sheer nonsense and Batman being a quirky super-badass lunatic is worth overlooking that.

The V/O acting talent is incredible with Arnett at the top of his vocal game, giving this CG figure such nuance that you forget this is a little Lego character. But let’s not forget about Chris McKay’s lightning-fast direction; he knows all about that stuff, too, having directed the first Lego movie and TV’s Robot Chicken. It’s almost TOO fast and you miss alot of sight gags in the background as the action moves at a breakneck speed. Still, even at this frenetic pace, it was thoroughly enjoyable and wonderfully silly, judging by the raucous laughter in the audience from both adults and kids alike.     

Batman (1966)
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You want silly? I got your silly right here! Back in 1966, the very campy and very laughable Batman TV series bowed and was a HUGE hit, with unknown stars Adam West as the Caped Crusader and Burt Ward as his trusty sidekick, Robin, the boy wonder. The series lasted only three seasons, but made an indelible mark on the pop-culture world. This movie was made right at the end of Season One to capitalize on the TV series massive hit, and it didn’t fail.

You REALLY have to know the TV series to “get it”, but here goes… after Batman is nearly eaten by a rubber shark at sea (you HAVE to see this to believe it!), he and Robin head to Commissioner Gordon’s (Neil Hamilton) office, where they deduce that the United Underworld is gathering the four most powerful villains in Gotham City’s history: The Joker (Cesar Romero) , The Penguin (Burgess Meredith), The Riddler (Frank Gorshin), and The Catwoman (Lee Meriwether). Egads!!

It looks like the bad guys have stolen an invention that can turn humans into dust and plan on using on the United Nations! Horrors! Catwoman, disguised as a Soviet journalist named Miss Kitka helps kidnap Bruce Wayne as a plot to lure Batman and finish him off (not knowing that Wayne IS Batman). After Wayne escapes captivity, Penguin disguises himself as Commodore Schmidlapp and schemes his way into the Batcave along with five dehydrated henchmen. BUT! His plan fails when the henchmen unexpectedly pop and disappear into nothing as they are reanimated using the wrong kind of water! Bummer!

The Dynamic Duo are unable to prevent the dehydrating of the U.N members and give chase after the bad guys in their (*snicker*) Penguin submarine using their own Batboat! Yes, it’s as funny as it sounds. Robin uses a sonic charge weapon to disable Penguin’s submarine and force it to surface, where a fist fight ensues. Although Batman and Robin win the fight, Batman is heartbroken to find out that his “true love” (Miss Kitka) is actually Catwoman when her mask falls off. Aw, shucks! The real Commodore Schmidlapp accidentally breaks the vials containing the powdered U.N. council members, mixing them together. Oh no!!

Through a tense, televised event, Batman painstakingly separates the powdered members and re-hydrates them… all alive and well! BUT! Each of them now speaks the language and displays the stereotypical mannerisms of a nation other than their own. Oopsie! Batman quietly expresses his sincere hope to Robin that this “mixing of minds” does more good than it does harm.

Yes, it was just as funny, dumb, and thoroughly entertaining as the TV series with the same cast members, except for Julie Newmar as Catwoman. Written by series creator Lorenzo Semple, jr and directed by Leslie H. Martinson, who directed Batman, along with a gargantuan number of other top TV shows, this movie was pure popcorn and pure meta.

Funny side note: Adam West, when he heard they were making a Batman movie, demanded more money. The studios countered with real threats of replacing him another actor! This movie also introduced the Batcopter, the Batcycle, and the Batboat.

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