Movie review: “The Lego Batman Movie” is both entertaining and meaningful

February 9, 2017

Fans of “The Lego Movie” can rejoice at the expansion of the brand and its move into superhero territory with “The Lego Batman Movie,” because everything remains awesome — and hilarious.

This is the hero that we deserve and need in the Lego world: brooding, brilliant and brawny, and so over-the-top silly in all of these respects that it reminds us why we love the character and his complex shortcomings.

You know, the fact that he’s a loner who won’t let anyone get close to him. Bruce Wayne’s inability to get past his pain — his decades of pain. The fact that Batman doesn’t always play well with others as a crime-fighting teammate.

Those familiar with Will Arnett’s gravel-voiced “Lego Movie” depiction of the Dark Knight can expect all of these Batman character flaws to be explored in amusing ways through his outstanding voice performance.

What’s truly remarkable about this animated laugh-fest is the intelligent manner in which it deals with the psychology behind those mysterious facets of Batman and helps him become a healthier, happier guy by the end.

If Warner Bros. and DC Comics can make something that’s both this entertaining and meaningful at the same time, with Lego characters, here’s hoping they can find the right tone for those “Justice League” movies.

With five credits on the screenplay and 18 producers listed for the film, there might have been concern that “The Lego Batman Movie” could be a made-by-committee mess with a little bit of everything thrown in.

That stew of ideas is exactly what happened, and it somehow works beautifully.

That’s largely because while the film is packed with superheroes and villains (much of the DC lineup seems to make an appearance), there is a focus on family.

This would be family in the sense of how Batman interacts with those closest to him, like Alfred, Bruce Wayne’s butler; an orphan, Dick Grayson, that Bruce inadvertently adopts; and Barbara Gordon, the new police commissioner trying to make Batman understand he can’t go it alone — in life or in crime-fighting.

There is real warmth that develops in these relationships, with a depth that is balanced by the rapid-fire humor mix.

Arnett teamed up with Michael Cera, his “Arrested Development” co-star who plays Dick/sidekick Robin, creates a verbal back-and-forth that is comedy gold.

Ralph Fiennes is dry-wit perfection as father-figure Alfred, who puts Batman in more than one “time-out” when he thinks only of himself, and Rosario Dawson is the voice of reason and the picture of bravery as the new Commissioner Gordon/Batman foil.

The action-comedy is so quick-paced and slapstick that little ones will howl, while the dialogue is so packed with in-jokes and sight gags that only the adults will appreciate that the movie has a high something-for-everyone quality.

Batman movies of the past are a target for humor throughout, be it in the 1960s tights, the Prince soundtrack of the 1989 movie, the “C-grade” villains over the years, as the movie calls them, or Christian Bale’s voice.

It’s an iconic character, and we get all of the jokes, and all the jokes are funny. When I wasn’t laughing at “The Lego Batman Movie,” I was smiling.

But the filmmakers truly love the character, even when letting Arnett go on blustering about his shredded abs, his mastery of machismo, and his ability to stop criminals who threaten Gotham City — despite their always coming back, again and again, like the Joker (Zach Galifianakis).

And Harley Quinn. And the Riddler. And an uproarious assortment of others ranging from Voldemort to Godzilla. Seriously.

There is also a cameo-packed scene of DC heroes that appear, and it’s a hoot, but it’s brief; despite the sheer number of good guys and bad girls and a plethora of Lego model action scenes, the film doesn’t go off course.

The focus is on the funny and the family, which makes “The Lego Batman Movie” a super choice for young and old alike to enjoy.