Let's be honest for a second and agree that The Lego Movie should never have worked. On paper, it's a horrible idea. Yet, Phil Lord and Chris Miller did what they always do - take a strange and unwieldy idea and turn it into something great. Including Batman in The Lego Movie seemed a bizarre choice, but the Will Arnett voiced character was a highlight for pretty much everyone who watched it and it didn't take long until a spin off was announced. With Lord and Miller only serving as producers this time, the satisfaction of The Lego Movie wore off and we were all sceptical about whether the spin off was a good idea. It turns out that, just like last time, we never needed to worry at all.
When he isn't fighting crime as masked vigilante Batman, Bruce Wayne (Arnett) lives in recluse in his mansion with his butler Alfred (Ralph Fiennes). His arch nemesis, the Joker (Zach Galifianakis), rallies together an endless group of villains to attempt to rid Gotham City of the Batman, all while new Police Chief Barbara Gordon (Rosario Dawson) proposes that Batman abandon his solo nature and work alongside the law enforcement. After a misunderstanding, Wayne also accidentally adopts local orphan Dick Grayson (Michael Cera), who he reluctantly takes on as a protege. Eventually, it is down to Batman, Grayson, Gordon and Alfred to battle the Joker and save Gotham City.
If it sounds kind of mental, it's because it is. If you thought The Lego Movie was high octane and relied on energy, it pales in comparison to The Lego Batman Movie. But, once again, here we have a film that is not only zany and energetic but also consistently funny, mindbogglingly inventive, nimbly structured and genuinely touching. While it loses the surprise effect that made The Lego Movie such a treat and its conclusion doesn't rival the sudden foray into live action that made its parent film so poignant, Lego Batman remains a highly enjoyable film that puts a smile on your face from beginning to end.
I would comfortably say that this is a funnier film than The Lego Movie. The jokes come thick and fast, a large percentage of the film is more than prepared to drop at least three jokes per minute and they all land. There are digs at other recent Batman stories - most notably Suicide Squad and Batman v Superman, obviously - and multiple other references to other films, but Lego Batman even finds room for more adult humour (how the number plate on Bruce Wayne's car made it into the final cut is hilariously baffling to me) and countless sight gags. The faux stop motion animation style carves the way for some brilliant little visual flourishes that add depth to the film's comedy - it isn't just content to run one joke into the ground, rather it consistently finds new comedic territory and makes every joke its own.
The way Lego Batman even lands on something genuinely moving in its finale is even more impressive. You could make a case for the film's central theme being a bit obvious when it comes to Batman - the whole film is pegged around isolation and loneliness and how you combat that to form a human relationship of any kind - but it handles it excellently. It's written smartly enough to simultaneously act as a life lesson for small kids as well as a powerful sentiment to older viewers. The fact that it has a better grasp of Batman as a character than Batman v Superman did isn't exactly surprising, but what is surprising is just how committed to this theme the film really is.
It doesn't just form it around Batman. Young Dick Grayson feels the same emotional distance, Barbara Gordon only wants to do well in her first challenge as the new Police Chief, Alfred wants to help his adoptive son refocus his life and even the Joker just wants to comfortably know that he really is Batman's arch nemesis. It all sounds silly, and of course it is, but Lego Batman excels whenever it combines the silly and the thoughtful. Thankfully, that's most of its run time. The voice acting is faultless all round, too. Arnett remains the obvious highlight for too many reasons than can be explained, but Michael Cera, Ralph Fiennes, Rosario Dawson, Jenny Slate, and Channing Tatum are all delightful as well.
Lego Batman's biggest triumph, though? It perfectly reminds us that the concept of a Lego Movie shouldn't put us off anymore. There have been weirder franchises in cinematic history, and while this sounded like one big cash grab from the word go, everything we have seen in this Universe so far has been terrific. Lego Batman loses that surprise element because about ten minutes into the film you stop worrying, you just know you're going to have a blast. I mean, how could you not? The less said about a plethora of other characters who appear in the film's second half, the better - but it's hilarious and unique and wonderful all at once. If just one film drops in 2017 that's more fun than this, what a year it will be.
TO SUMMARISE: Dazzlingly inventive and unrelentingly funny, The Lego Batman Movie adds another enjoyable and surprisingly moving entry to the ever impressive Lego Movie franchise.