“The LEGO Batman Movie”
Excellent (4 stars)
Rated PG for action and rude humor
Running time: 90 minutes
Distributor: Warner Brothers Pictures
Not since the campy TV-sitcom back in the Sixties has Batman been so successfully lampooned. Now, the much-beloved superhero again proves perfect fodder for parody in a madcap, animated adventure with a terribly-short attention span.
More concerned with jokes than plot development, this irreverent spoof is relentless in its rush to find the next punch line. Fortunately, the picture never disappoints in that endeavor, whether the laughs be generated by clever quips, silly sight gags or allusions to earlier incarnations of the enduring franchise.
For example, right before confronting a couple of villains, Batman (Will Arnett) informs Robin (Michael Cera) that, “We’re going to punch these guys so hard that words are going to magically appear out of thin air.” That’s a thinly-veiled reference to the cartoon bubbles (a la “Crack!” and “Pow!”) that would appear on the screen during fist fights on the old television series.
And it’s not just the TV Batman that gets knocked off a pedestal, here. For, every big screen version of The Caped Crusader is fair game in the eyes of Chris McKay, who makes a remarkable, feature film directorial debut with this frenetically-paced farce.
The picture does have a premise, though it does read like a stock Batman storyline. At the point of departure, we learn that The Joker (Zach Galifianakis) is hatching a plan to level Gotham City with the help of a host of infamous supervillains. In turn, Batman enlists the assistance of Robin (Michael Cera), Batgirl (Rosario Dawson) and his loyal manservant, Alfred (Ralph Fiennes).
However, before the typical tussle between these long-standing archenemies, we’re treated to an emotionally-charged exchange in which The Joker demands Batman finally commit to their adversarial relationship of 78 years by uttering, “I hate you.” When that phrase isn’t forthcoming, The Clown Prince of Crime vindictively responds with “I’m done, and on the way out I’m going to blow up Gotham City.”
The ensuing mix of mirth and mayhem is so mesmerizing, it’s easy to forget you’re watching LEGO figures. More fun than a barrel of monkeys, not that anybody still gets a kick out of watching primates at play.