Film Review: The Lego Batman Movie

Phil Turner takes his seven-year-old to see The Lego Batman Movie and comes back rather underwhelmed.

Remember when you were at school and were set a piece of creative writing, maybe given a title and your job was to flesh out a short story? If you were anything like me, you spent ages working on the initial concept, wholeheartedly dedicated yourself to the opening scene or two and then slowly lost interest until it all petered out and you ended up with Dallas-inspired “And then I woke up and realised it was all a dream…” line. Yup?

Well despite the array of writers on huge salaries and the Hollywood ‘machine’ that surrounds anything with “Lego” and “movie” in the title, The Lego Batman movie kinda feels like one of my half-baked short stories which ends up with that ‘finished-on-the-bus-the-morning-it-needed-to-be-handed-in’ feel.

Which is a shame because the opening half hour or so really is rather good. It starts with a bang; Batman saves the day yet again as a plethora of villains; from the familiar (The Joker, Penguin, Bane and Catwoman), to the obscure (Crazy Quilt, Tarantula, Orca…) to the possibly made up (The Condiment King) do their best to blow up Gotham City because…. Well that’s just what they do. The jokes come thick and fast, characters are neatly introduced and we’re all licking our lips at the thought of what looks like being as good a follow up to The Lego Movie as we could have wished for. We discover the central theme quickly; The Joker wants to be the number one arch enemy, but Batman is unwilling to commit, claiming he is “fighting a few different people … I Iike to fight around.”

The Joker resolves to make Batman eat his words, seemingly more fixated on being his arch nemesis than worrying about what kind of evil stuff he should actually be doing. Batman returns to his manor, eating lobster thermidor for one, scrolling through the channels on his giant TV on his own and generally experiencing an almighty comedown after his earlier heroics. This section is where the film is at its cleverest, smartly offsetting Batman’s earlier bluster against his insular lifestyle as he shuns friends and family, too afraid to open himself up again after losing his parents at a young age. He accidentally adopts Dick Grayson, who becomes his enthusiastic and slightly effeminate sidekick Robin, and we all kick back, relax and get ready for seems sure to be a rollercoaster ride of in-jokes, action and superhero drama.

But where Lego Movie, the vastly superior precursor, never let up steam and was a well-planned, expertly executed kids movie that also worked for adults, Batman just never really goes anywhere. So much so that not only did director Chris McKay struggle to keep me interested but even my Lego-fixated seven-year-old started to switch off as the film entered its third act.
The gags became thin on the ground and the constant to-ing and fro-ing as to whether Batman would be better off working alone or realise that he needed help to defeat the zillions of super-baddies he was up against, became really rather irritating.

Bat fans will enjoy the constant references to previous incarnations and inside jokes, while Lego superhero obsessed kids will enjoy the manic animation and ‘blink and you’ll miss them’ round up of villains. But ultimately, in the cold light of day, this is a good film for 30 minutes, and OK one for an hour nut by the time its run its course, it’s just become plain annoying.

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