A password will be e-mailed to you.

The LEGO Batman Movie is the only real family friendly option opening this weekend, so pile up the car, grab Grandma, and get to it. Not only is this a fun action-adventure, it’s clever enough for everyone to enjoy, and the plethora of Easter eggs make the film worth revisiting once it’s available for streaming.

It’s almost as good as The LEGO Movie and, as a bonus, it’s a part of the LEGO world and a part of the DC Universe. LEGO Batman shouts out just about everything in Bat-media, from the Justice League and Super Friends to the 1960s Batman TV series and Batman: The Animated Series. In some small way, we might even consider some of the relationship established here between Barbara Gordon (Rosario Dawson) and Batman (Will Arnett) as an allusion to the ill-fated Batman: The Killing Joke (2016) film. It makes a strong case for LEGO Batman being canon and not just a separate incarnation of the caped crusader.

One of the biggest revelations of the movie? Probably the Bat’s affinity for Lobster Thermidor, cooked normally by Alfred, refrigerated, and later microwave reheated for two minutes. The Dark Knight’s love for all things dark and brooding is an irritant for his butler Alfred (Ralph Fiennes), and over time evolves into Alfred’s belief that Batman’s greatest fear is a loving family. He wants Batman to quit watching rom-coms by himself in the Wayne Manor IMAX theater, to stop gazing longingly at the massive portrait wall of the Wayne family pre-murder in Crime Alley.

A lot of the film is a trip down Bat-memory lane, good for fanatics, great for kids, and just short enough that it won’t drive you crazy. Bruce Wayne is so much more ridiculously wealthy in LEGO Batman than anything that Christopher Nolan’s hyper-dark series depicts, zany in the style of Burton’s, and with a dash of Schumacher. In LEGO Batman’s world, everything is all Batman, all the time. He rarely takes off his Bat-Cowl to be Bruce Wayne, and his secondary outfit is a robe; it shows off his 9-pack. It’s all Batsy, all the time.

As in the other Batman films, the Joker wants to be Batman’s arch-nemesis, but no one is more important to Batman than Batman himself. He treats the Joker as an irrelevant component of Batman’s larger mission of being the best crime-fighter in the world, and the only superhero around, if he could only get that pesky Superman off the television.

This version of Batman is the uber-Bat: the amplified version of Batman that Bat-Fans talk about when they discuss the man behind the mask, and the brain under the cowl. He’s the narcissistic man-child who has stressed Alfred into reading parenting books, the one who wouldn’t survive on his own without a caretaker, but prefers to feign independence. Everything changes the day he attends the retirement party of Commissioner Gordon, and the coronation of the new Commissioner, Gordon’s daughter, Barbara.

I suspect this vision of Batgirl will spark a new enthusiasm for feminist readings of the character, and though this Batman isn’t openly a womanizer, he does hint at his past characterizations. It’s not perfect, but with Dawson’s voice in charge of the Gotham police, there is a different mood to the actions of the police force than that of Nolan’s films.

The retirement gala is fancy and out-of-touch enough that they have a choir of orphans singing Michael Jackson. One of the orphans happens to be a small nerd named Richard Grayson (Michael Cera), who spots Bruce Wayne from afar and races after him to propose to him… for adoption. He wants a Dad! A Papa! Of course, Bats is having none of that, and quite frankly, he might be the only grating element of the entire film. An over-eager little tater tot of a child, he is the peppy version of Cera’s earlier role as George Michael in Arrested Development, which gives the filmmakers a chance to take advantage of this cast (Will Arnett was also in Arrested Development) to set up a great in-joke for fans of the show.

LEGO Batman is at times so hyper-aware of its augmented reality that it’s easy to miss the fact that none of the characters, especially Batman, seem to know or acknowledge their animation. The film uses clips and references to outside works constantly, so they are aware of humanoid beings, but does this mean that they are living in a mini-fig universe within our own? It was a part of the plot of The LEGO Movie, but it’s just kind of there in this one. Is the cross-referencing between genres, films, and other media a sort of self-awareness or is it just a fun little element for the kids to get confused about in 20 years the way “90s kids” feel about their favorite Nickelodeon shows? Maybe the LEGO universe is the alternate reality we’ve devised to distract us from our current bizarre world.

Enthusiasts of animation will enjoy the grand landscapes that views from the Batjet and Batcar provide, and Marvel fans will enjoy the similarities of some of the plot elements to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (no shade). Several of the ideas seem borrowed, but it’s less of a theft and more of an homage to the superhero genre. It will kick-start a love of both the LEGO brand for children and a working knowledge of Batman-lore. It’s good, but it doesn’t have a catchy theme song like “Everything is Awesome!” or “Kiss From a Rose” at the end… but maybe that’s a good thing.

X
X