I can currently name only one franchise that consistently pushes the boundaries of animation as a medium—not only in its nearly-photorealistic models and lighting effects, but more importantly in its use of dynamic setpieces and compositions not creatable within the confines of this mundane reality we live in—and that franchise is Warner Bros’ Lego-related series. I couldn’t have imagined before 2014’s “The Lego Movie” that a feature-length film based on toy building blocks would be melting brains with visuals so vibrantly oddball and frenetically active that they’d almost be exhausting if they weren’t so engaging.
This year’s “The Lego Batman Movie” makes good on that standard, taking audiences on a stimulating thrill ride of sights and sounds. And it doesn’t stop there. “Lego Batman” carries with it the same rapid wit of its predecessor, firing multiple jokes per second, to the point that the movie almost requires a second, silent viewing in order to appreciate fully all the good writing. That’s one way to earn replay value.
Despite an abundance of clever jokes and double––entendres, that can be appreciated by the adults whose children have coerced them to see the film, “Lego Batman” makes a few too many missteps into baseless kiddy stuff and contrived child-pandering, including but not limited to; beatboxing gags, “…because I’m Batman” jokes and a sugar-coated pop music number to wrap it all up. While “The Lego Movie” seemed to strike a near perfect balance of all-ages humor and juvenile appeal, “Lego Batman” reaches out much more to a younger audience, and the writing and storytelling suffer as a result. The basis for the plot’s structure is a Hollywood formula, and kid’s movie tropes abound.
“Lego Batman” will induce knee-slapping one second and eye-rolling the next—literally, it happened. But its successes ring out over its failures, leaving the viewer with colorful impressions of visual beauty and whizbang humor, even if those memories bring with them a disdainful caveat of “Oh yeah, they did that too, didn’t they?” “The Lego Batman Movie” doesn’t reinvent the family movie the way its predecessor did, or even manage to break free of most of the clichés of the genre, but it does at least manage to uphold a similar brand of wide-range comedy and interest. Go have a good time with it.
If you liked “Guardians of the Galaxy,” then you’ll like this.