I hate to get all political, especially when discussing what might be the most delightfully apolitical film of 2017 so far, but I must acknowledge how dismayed I was to see Steven Mnuchin- the new US Secretary of the Treasury under President Trump- credited as Executive Producer on The LEGO Batman Movie. What a cruel turn of fate that this man will profit enormously from a film that is smart, joyful and intensely funny: literally the opposite of everything Mr. Mnuchin and his colleagues represent.
Investments aside, LEGO Batman is admirably and thrillingly made with love, wit and whimsy; like 2014’s original LEGO Movie, it totally transcends its role as toy advertising to become a glorious celebration of both the DC universe, and the roster of Warner Brothers properties more generally (you’ll see more than just comic-book characters making appearances throughout).
Will Arnett, the always-underappriated multi-hyphenate, reprises his scene-stealing Bruce Wayne from Phil Lord and Chris Miller’s 2014 adventure, joined by Robin (Michael Cera), Alfred (Ralph Fiennes) and The Joker (Zach Galifianakis) for some of the purest Gotham City folly ever put on screen, loaded with dangerous quantities of self-referential jokes and endearing easter eggs. Arnett is an extraordinary voice actor (his work on Bojack Horseman is Emmy-worthy), and his Batman is both amusingly dull and deeply nuanced: rarely has the isolation of a superhero’s life been so vividly conveyed (and all through CGI bricks!).
Sharing much of Deadpool‘s DNA (but far exceeding that film’s comedic brilliance), The LEGO Batman Movie functions both as an entertaining comic-book affair and an appropriately harsh, often farcical parody of comic-book movie clichés. It leans more towards the postmodern charm of The Incredibles and Kingsman: The Secret Service than the adolescent crudity of Deadpool. It’s hard to judge what the average child will make of what is ultimately a 110-minute portrait of middle-aged chauvinistic misery, but there are sufficient bright colours to distract the more hyperactive. Retaining the intellectual substance of recent efforts and the manic comedy of 1996’s Batman! The Movie, this film is a glorious cocktail of everybody’s favourite Batmen. Or is it ‘Batmans’?