Just when it appeared we’d reached peak superhero, those wily folks at Warner Bros. find another way to re-package the Caped Crusader and the other denizens of the DC Comics stable – one that also manages to ally them to the world’s most popular toy brand. (Ker-ching!) The result is a riotous follow-up to 2014’s The Lego Movie.
It also goes some way towards dispelling the lingering stink from last year’s Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad disappointments, films this one has no qualms about adding to its list of satirical victims. (“Get criminals to fight criminals? That’s a stupid idea!” mutters Batman at one point.)
Marvel too gets its fair share of ribbing (check out the password required to enter the Batcave), as do the conventions of superhero movies themselves. (The film kicks off with Zach Galifianakis’ Joker hijacking a plane full of munitions operated by McGuffin Airlines.)
Yet the chief target is the Dark Knight himself, hilariously voiced by Will Arnett as a grumpy churl and preening egotist that helmer Chris McKay (Robot Chicken) delights in undercutting at every opportunity. Our hero’s lonely idea of downtime, we learn, is to microwave lobster thermidor and rewatch .
Batman clearly needs a bat-buddy, one who duly arrives in the form of orphan Dick Grayson (Michael Cera). The Bat has bigger fish to fry, though – the Joker’s latest scheme to open the Phantom Zone and have its prisoners destroy Gotham forever.
How can he be a single parent when everything from Voldemort, the Gremlins and the Creature from the Black Lagoon are dismantling his town? Well, it helps if you have manservant Alfred (Ralph Fiennes) at your side, not to mention “sick new vehicles, codenames… and a kick-ass theme tune!”
McKay’s MO is to throw everything at the screen in the hope most of it sticks, be it a Justice League anniversary party or a homage to the Adam West TV show’s habit of word-illustrating its fight scenes.
But he could do all of these things without Lego, very much a spare part in a film that makes only limited use of the toy’s universe-building properties. So bereft is The Lego Batman Movie of instant-assembly set-pieces that a scene in which a ‘Scuttler’ vehicle is thrown together comes as a genuine surprise.
Still, it’s tough to get nit-picky with a film that finds chortles in everything from the Batmobile’s lack of seat-belts to Robin’s lack of trousers. Maybe DC will take the hint and inject a little more humour into their live-action fare…