In the recent slew of gritty superhero reboots, it’s easy to forget an important fact: comic books were made for children. In the wake of a neck-snapping Man of Steel, a lethal Batman v Superman, and a sinister Suicide Squad, it seems the fun, snappy days of Christopher Reeves and Adam West are a thing of the past. However, one DC film stands out from the other melancholy cinematic offerings, partly because it is extremely entertaining, and partly because the cast is comprised completely of Legos.
Holy good adaptations Batman!
With three LEGO conventions, one Comic-con, and eight years of homeschooling under my utility belt, I felt fairly qualified going into the theater, even if I was the only non-parent attending above 12 years of age. Based off a toy line based off a movie based of a comic book character, The LEGO Batman Movie follows (surprise) a brick-built Batman/Bruce Wayne as he learns the importance of family while saving a LEGO Gotham City from various villains. Silly, over the top and action packed, The LEGO Batman Movie is the goofiest the Dark Knight has ever been since Joel Schumacher’s “Batman and Robin.” It is also the most family-friendly the comic book hero has been for quite some time, with the the murderous fight scenes swapped out for slap-sticky romps between piles of LEGO figurines.
In fact, everything in the film is comprised of the plastic Danish building blocks, and though the movie is CGI, every brick involved is to scale and physically accurate, so no pieces or characters move in ways that couldn’t be posed at home. The entirety of LEGO Gotham could be built in real life, given enough bricks and homeschooled volunteers. Even the main characters have plastic mold-markings and scratch marks, like a normal child’s toy would have. Additionally, this movie is downright hilarious! I cannot emphasize enough how funny this movie is, with a rapid-fire barrage of one-liners, sarcasm, puns, physical comedy and meta-jokes from start to finish that make Deadpool’s occasional movie references look like child’s play. Another aspect which compounds the comedy is the peculiar legal position the film has regarding copyrighted material. Because the film is a Warner Brothers and LEGO Group product, anything under both logos is fair game for roasting, and according to an EW interview with director Chris McKay, the film had an expert team of lawyers. That means Batman was allowed to watch sappy, 90s rom-coms, make the Batcave password “Iron Man Sucks,” and fight a slew of non-DC villains, including King Kong, an army of Daleks and the shark from Jaws.
Some Shark Repellent Required
Some of the non-canonical villains that Batman and Co. fight are magical, including Sauron from The Lord of The Rings, The Wicked Witch of The Wizard of Oz fame, and Voldemort from the Harry Potter series. Admittedly, these depictions are extremely silly and borderline parody, with their magical prowess limited to spewing lava, summoning flying monkeys and turning people into plastic fish. Still, they might be a problem for those who oppose to magic in film.
Additionally, a lot of the film’s humor does come from referencing other Batman movies, while its predecessor The LEGO Movie had more original content. While you don’t need to see the films to get the jokes (I got the Suicide Squad jabs despite never having seen it), I would hope the other nine-year-olds in the theater didn’t get too curious about the PG-13 film references. The film could be considered violent in an old Looney Tunes kind of way and sarcastic in an old Looney Tunes kind of way. Also, before learning his lesson, Batman acts like a jerk, especially towards a surprisingly lovable Joker, whom he fights with like an old married couple. These are small potatoes compared to other DC fare, but in the realm of kid’s movies, they might be problematic for the easily impressionable.
The LEGO Batman Movie was the most unique super hero film, and the most entertaining children’s film I have encountered in a long time. With a simple-yet-ridiculous plotline, a creative style of animation and a balance of jokes, tone and slapstick humor that would make Chuck Jones proud, it shows that Warner Bros. is capable of returning to its comedic animation roots. There seems to be a recent trend in children’s films that they have to be either uncreative slews of pop culture and toilet humor (Minions, anyone?), or else tear-jerking, thought-provoking adult concepts repackaged in CGI for children (I’m looking at you, Zootopia and Inside Out). The LEGO Batman Movie stands in the middle, with a ton of funny stuff done very well, and an important lesson put very straightforward. With a diverse cast of Americans, Brits, African-Americans, and even artificial intelligence, The LEGO Batman Movie is a film I would gladly watch again (and again, and buy on iTunes, and maybe pick up a few of the tie-in LEGO sets).