Upbeat LEGO Batman's got boundless energy
A knowing script and a hilarious opening sequence are just two of the building blocks of LEGO's foray into big-screen stand-alone Batman territory – and the result is fun for the young and the young at heart alike, writes Damon Smith
EVERYTHING was awesome with the 2014 computer-animated comedy The LEGO Movie, which cleverly brought together DC Comics superheroes in a world of coloured building bricks. Humour was pitched perfectly between the young and the young-at-heart, and a knowing script mined humour from the physical limitations of LEGO without dinting the brand's enduring appeal.
This polished spin-off, directed by Chris McKay, comes close to capturing the magic of the original. The beginning is a very good place to start with The LEGO Batman Movie because the opening five minutes of credits and droll voiceover are sheer perfection.
"All important movies start with a black screen," growls Batman (voiced by Will Arnett), providing a hilarious running commentary of the production companies responsible for his film. Sly digs at previous incarnations of the Caped Crusader on the big and small screen up the comic ante, as the titular vigilante panders to his overinflated ego.
"Remember kids, if you want to be like Batman, take care of your abs!" he advises.
It's genuinely one of the finest animated opening salvos since the wizards at Pixar had us sobbing into our handkerchiefs with Up.
The rest of McKay's picture is a delight but doesn't scale the same dizzy heights of razor-sharp hilarity.
Batman wallows in loneliness at Wayne Manor where loyal butler Alfred (Ralph Fiennes) expertly pinpoints the source of his master's malaise.
"Your greatest fear is being part of a family again."
Soon after, Commissioner James Gordon (Hector Elizondo) hands over control to his daughter, Barbara (Rosario Dawson), who calls into question the effectiveness of Batman when all of his nemeses including The Joker (Zach Galifianakis) and Harley Quinn (Jenny Slate) remain at large.
Despite the stinging criticism, Batman is smitten – cue strains of Cutting Crew's 1986 ballad (I Just) Died In Your Arms – and in the midst of this romantic fog, he inadvertently agrees to adopt plucky orphan Dick Grayson (Michael Cera).
The boy wonder infiltrates the Bat Cave, home to the Bat Train, Bat Submarine and a Bat Kayak, and picks out a spandex outfit so he can join his new father on night-time escapades.
And Batman desperately needs a sidekick when The Joker unleashes every villain in the galaxy on Gotham including the Daleks, which Batman casually dismisses as "British robots".
The LEGO Batman Movie induces whoops of glee as familiar characters poke fun at their mythologies.
"We're going to punch these guys so hard, words are going to spontaneously materialise out of thin air," confirms Batman as a familiar blitzkrieg of "KAPOWs" and "BLAMs" fill the screen during one epic showdown.
Arnett's hysterical vocal performance is heightened by a gushing bromance with Galifianakis's giggling maniac. Set pieces are animated and edited with boundless energy, whetting appetites for future forays into the LEGO universe.
THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE (U, 104 mins) Animation/Comedy/Action/Romance. Featuring the voices of Will Arnett, Zach Galifianakis, Michael Cera, Rosario Dawson, Ralph Fiennes, Jenny Slate, Hector Elizondo. Director: Chris McKay