‘Lego Batman’ delights audiences brick by brick

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When “The Lego Movie” premiered around this time three years ago, many questioned whether an animated film starring characters made out of Danish plastic building toys could make it with audiences. It turns out that they did, as “The Lego Batman Movie,” the first of at least two spin-offs and one sequel set to build (no pun intended) on the success of the original, continues the resounding success of the initial entry.

The film begins three years after the defeat and redemption of Lord Business with just another night in Gotham City—a large group of supervillains, led by the Joker, has seized a cargo plane of Lego explosives and planted them throughout the city. The villains couple this mayhem with their usual hijinks, keeping the police on their toes.

All seems lost until Batman arrives and singlehandedly defeats the villains in just enough time before the city is destroyed. After some goodwill stops, the Dark Knight retires to Wayne Manor, where he eats his favorite dish, lobster thermidor, tells the picture of his parents that he saved the city again and lives the life of a cocky loner with totally shredded nine-pack abs.

When he inadvertently adopts a young orphan named Dick Grayson, at the encouragement of his loyal butler Alfred, Batman must decide whether he can set aside his pride and work as a team and family with Alfred, Dick and Police Commissioner Barbara Gordon when the Joker unleashes an even greater threat—the combined forces of Lego evil that have been banished to the Phantom Zone by the almighty powers of Warner Brothers product licensing!

As a near-lifelong fan of both Lego and Batman, this film was an absolutely fantastic treat for me, and it is likely to please loyal fans of both properties, as well as fans of cinema.

More than one of the regular villains Batman faces in Gotham have been lifted from the backwaters of comic book and TV obscurity, with such ne’er-do-wellers as Egghead, King Tut, PolkaDot Man, Gentleman Ghost, Calendar Man, Clock King, Catman, Zebra and Condiment King causing havoc alongside such legends as the Penguin, Bane, Mr. Freeze, Catwoman, Harley Quinn, the Riddler and TwoFace. Much of the film’s humor stems from its nods to Bathistory, which came from such a plethora of sources as dialogue, music, voice casting and the costumes and tools in the Batcave.

For instance, Billy Dee Williams provides the voice for Two-Face, acknowledging the fact that he portrayed Harvey Dent in Tim Burton’s 1989 film “Batman,” and Robin finds the infamous Shark Repellant, used on a dummy shark in the 1966 film adaptation of the Adam West TV show, in a forgotten corner of the Batcave. The voice casting was also impeccable for “The Lego Batman Movie,” with Will Arnett returning from “The Lego Movie” to voice the Dark Knight, along with Channing Tatum’s Superman and Jonah Hill’s Green Lantern; several new cast members also proved welcome and well-suited for their roles, such as Michael Cera as Dick Grayson, Rosario Dawson as Barbara Gordon, Ralph Fiennes as Alfred, Zack Galifianakis as the Joker, Zoe Kravitz as Catwoman and Conan O’Brien as the Riddler.

Much in the spirit of “The Lego Movie,” the film also seeks to impart valuable life lessons, this time about the value of forming friendships, humility and being open about feelings.

The original music written for the film consists of more of Batman’s praises of himself, with “Who’s the (Bat)man?” a shameless homage to the Caped Crusader from the one who thinks he knows him best: himself. “Friends are Family” is also potentially set to be the new earworm to replace “Everything is Awesome” for many fans.

Overall, “The Lego Batman Movie” is a fitting homage to one of the greatest superheroes of all time and an irreverent take on a pop culture icon that just asks for multiple viewings to catch all the pleasant surprises.

It truly does speak to the infinite childlike imagination that can stem from playing with Legos, with its extravaganza of unexpected characters and seemingly absurd situations, a welcome rehashing of one of the most lasting themes of the original film.

“The Lego Batman Movie” expanded its own Lego universe well without losing itself, and if it is any indication of what to expect from “The Lego Ninjago Movie” coming later this year, then we are all in for a very pleasurable brick-building adventure.