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Review: ‘The LEGO Batman Movie’ delivers laughs that both kids and adults will love

“Black. All important movies begin with a black screen.”

This line, grumbled by Batman (Will Arnett, doing his best Christian Bale impression) over an appropriately black frame, encapsulates The LEGO Batman Movie: jokes regularly smash through the fourth wall between moments of madcap, overly-caffeinated silliness. Coupled with absolutely gorgeous animation and a genuinely sweet story, the referential humor is a welcome breath of fresh air for an animated film that will leave both children and adults in stitches. 

The plot follows the titular Caped Crusader as he struggles to face his fear of family. Years of self-imposed solitude have left Bruce Wayne feeling lonely, and his loyal butler Alfred (Ralph Fiennes) has started to notice. Through a hilarious series of mishaps, Wayne finds himself the foster father of Dick Grayson, a.k.a. Robin (a perfectly cast Michael Cera) who quickly becomes an annoyance to the vain billionaire playboy. Other members of the Justice League, including the muscle-brained Superman (Channing Tatum), avoid any interaction with the Bat and instead throw superhero parties without him.

Meanwhile, The Joker (Zach Galifianakis) is hurt by Batman’s indifference to their relationship. “You don’t mean anything to me,” Batman growls in the opening sequence. “Nobody does.” This sends Joker into a deep depression. What is his purpose if not to be Batman’s eternal foil?

To prove his evilness, the Clown Prince of Crime travels to an intergalactic prison filled with the baddest bad guys of all time — Voldemort, Sauron and the shark from Jaws are all present — and unleashes them onto the world. In order to defeat them all, Batman will need to trust the friends and family around him. For once, he can’t do it all alone.

Past Batman films have focused on the hero’s internal strife (Batman Begins) and near-mythical relationship with The Joker (The Dark Knight), but none of them have featured such an energetic sense of humor. The dialogue moves at a breakneck pace, delivering laugh after laugh that continues the level of craziness set by the original LEGO Movie. That film succeeded primarily thanks to its visual extravagance and boundless energy.

This time, the plot is based less on the novelty of the toys themselves. Instead, the characters take center stage, and first-time director Christopher McKay strikes a delicate balance between emotional material and purely comedic beats. The chemistry between Arnett, Cera, Fiennes and Rosario Dawson (as newly appointed police commissioner Barbara Gordon) generates a rat-a-tat rhythm to the film that doesn’t let up.

But it’s remarkable that The LEGO Batman Movie’s best quality is its writing, given that the screenplay went through six different writers before making it onscreen. Oddly enough, this may have unexpectedly helped the film maintain its scattershot comedic tone. The numerous gags, one-liners and ridiculous set pieces recall the great fast-break comedies like Airplane! or The Naked Gun.

What sets LEGO Batman apart from standard comedy and animation fare is its commitment to its theme and moral. By sticking to a positive, family-friendly message while deftly including enough references and jokes to entertain an adult audience, The LEGO Batman Movie (and its creators) have delivered a must-see film that will leave kids and their parents in stitches. 

Watch the trailer for The LEGO Batman Movie here:

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Dana Alston

Dana Alston

Dana Alston is an Associate Arts & Culture Editor from San Jose, CA. He writes about film, music, and television. Paul Thomas Anderson is his one true god.

You can follow his meme-endorsed social media ramblings @AlstonDalston on Twitter or Letterboxd, or shoot him some eloquent hate mail at [email protected]