This review contains SPOILERS: tidbits of information that may give away major plot points or details that you might not want to know if you haven't seen the movie! For your reading convenience, these have been marked with ⚠︎ SPOILER ALERT! ⚠︎ where they begin, and with ✔︎ END SPOILERS ✔︎ where they end.
WAG's new brick-built adventure follows the bite-size hero in a new narrative, spun off from the events of the original Lego Movie from 2014, and was directed by Chris McKay (whose previous credits include many episodes of the infamous stop-motion series Robot Chicken, as well as one of its Star Wars parody specials).
Recreating the charm and heart of the original Lego flick will always be something that's hard to follow, and I'll go ahead and get it out of the way--Lego Batman doesn't quite live up to its predecessor in terms of pure spirit, but it does match (and occasionally exceed) its forerunner in a number of other areas.
Even though Batman doesn't quite have the same level of joy that the original film had, it's arguably a lot funnier. Batman himself and his silly antics are reason enough to see the film, and everyone in my theater (including myself) was in tears from laughter all but a few minutes in. The humor of the film is notably different from its precursor, though. While the original Lego Movie has a childlike, jovial quality, the humor in Batman is much darker (fittingly) and arguably more suited for adults in some places.
Batman's world and the characters in it are pretty silly on their own, and while most incarnations of Batman don't take advantage of this, Lego Batman did in a delightful way. Much of the humor simply came from the silliness of what was already there.
But despite the lack of creativity evident there, the take on characters from the Batman universe are brilliant and inspired. Each classic hero and villain looks and behaves just as you'd expect them to, while also feeling fresh and new. (Not to mention, they're minifigures!) The new relationships between the characters were impressive as well: ⚠︎ SPOILER ALERT! ⚠︎Batman's and Dick's father-son dynamic was beautiful, Batman's and Joker's couple-like quarreling was strangely satisfying and hilarious, and Batman's self-restrained crush on Barbara Gordon added a nice touch of tenderness to the overall gruff character. ✔︎ END SPOILERS ✔︎
But the great performances don't end with the animators, as the voice acting in this film was just as spectacular! Batman's animated incarnations (from the aptly titled Animated Series to the Arkham video games) have always been known for their impeccable casting and voice acting, so when I heard that none of the recurring cast members like Kevin Conroy, Tara Strong, Mark Hamill, and Maurice LaMarche would be reprising their regular roles for the film, I was a little disappointed. But in spite of my initial dismay, I found each new actor delightfully perfect in their respective roles! Will Arnett steps behind the cowl to give an outstandingly hilarious performance as the Bat once again. Jenny Slate takes on the (surprisingly small) role of Harley Quinn with just enough cutesy-ness and sass. The always-awkward Michael Cera lends his voice the film's creative take on the boy wonder Robin, and two-time Oscar nominee Ralph Fiennes lends his to Alfred, Batman's pragmatic, fatherly butler. But the biggest surprise to me was Zach Galifianakis's performance as the Joker. The biggest disappointment in casting to me was that Mark Hamill would not be back to play the clown prince of crime in this film, as I consider him the best actor to ever play the role. The filmmakers instead handed the role to Emmy-winning writer and actor Galifianakis, who gave one of the film's most enjoyable performances. After hearing his voice in the part, I can't imagine anyone else there.