One statement you are guaranteed to hear regarding any Lego-based movie, TV special, or video game is that it offers fun for young and old alike. Testing that, the INDY sent two reviewers—one thirteen, one demonstrably older—to The Lego Batman Movie.
THE KID: Not the jokes you need, but the jokes you deserve ★★★★★
I enjoyed The Lego Batman Movie immensely, mainly for the comedy. There are some absolutely hilarious jokes, like when the plane carrying a lot of bombs is called McGuffin Airlines. There are also enough butt jokes to please any kid, such as when the Joker says, “Hey Batman! I'm rubbing my butt all over your stuff, gonna have to rename this the buttmobile” or when we learn that Batman's super-secret password to bypass parental controls is “Alfred da buttler.”
Other body parts make an appearance too. My favorite joke is when Robin is introducing himself to Batman and says that his name is Richard, but the other children call him Dick. Batman responds with, “Children can be cruel.”
The voice actors for Batman (Will Arnett, returning from his role in The Lego Movie) and the Joker (Zach Galifianakis) both completely nail the humor of their roles. In comparison to The Lego Movie, this movie tops it in every category except story, as you're laughing too much to pay attention to such trifling matters as plot. I must admit that the best part is the soundtrack—it perfectly complements whatever is happening in the movie at the time and is more attention-grabbing than the first movie's music. —Mason Fields
THE ADULT: A little lesson, a lot of laughs ★★★★
The kid is right. The Lego Batman Movie cranks up the Jokes Per Minute with an astonishingly high success rate. It's especially impressive considering how it blends over-the-top laughs aimed at the younger set with countless lines for the adults in the audience, such as when the Bat Computer recites the contents of Batman's mail (“A Pennysaver, two bills, and a coupon from Bed Bath and Beyond”) or Barbara Gordon quotes Passenger 57. The result had a screening audience, kids and adults alike, laughing almost nonstop.
There's plenty of fan service for longtime Batman enthusiasts as well. Whether it's the Joker defending the quality of his evil plan to a skeptic who asks, “Oh, like that time with the parade and the Prince music?” or Alfred reminding Batman of “that particularly silly” phase “in the sixties,” the film abounds with verbal and visual nods to the Christopher Nolan trilogy, the pre-Nolan films, and the campy TV series starring Adam West. It also alludes to more recent outings: “What am I going to do? Get a bunch of criminals to fight a bunch of criminals? What a stupid idea.”
As with its predecessor, the utter lack of boundaries of its universe is part of the charm here. It allows an array of villains from other fictional franchises (my review partner informs me that naming them would be a spoiler) to make appearances, as well as various billionaire playboy superheroes from other companies: Jerry Maguire and Rick Astley, among others.
The sketch of a plot involves stopping the Joker's latest endeavor, which is prompted by his relationship issues with Batman. Propelled by an all-star voice cast (Arnett, Galifianakis, Michael Cera, Rosario Dawson, Ralph Fiennes), the story chugs along at a steady clip, providing a sturdy framework on which to hang all manner of jokes and positive lessons about friendship, family, and teamwork. A scene where citizens come together to save the day is especially opportune in these divided times.
While the lesson learning is slightly less central than it was in The Lego Movie, it's unavoidable. But in this Caped Crusader tale, it's more comedy night than Dark Knight, and the main villain isn't the only joker around. —Curt Fields