At the Movies with Alan Gekko: The Lego Batman Movie “2017”

At the Movies with Alan Gekko: The Lego Batman Movie “2017”

MPAA Rating: PG/Genre: Computer Animated Superhero Comedy/Voices of: Will Arnett, Zach Galifianakis, Michael Cera, Rosario Dawson, Ralph Fiennes, Jenny Slate, Héctor Elizondo, Ellie Kemper, Mariah Carey, Lauren White, Todd Hansen, Chris McKay, Brent Musburger, Ralph Garman, Chris Hardwick, Mark Jonathan Davis, Jonah Hill, Adam DeVine, Channing Tatum, Billy Dee Williams, Riki Lindhome, Conan O’Brien, Jason Mantzoukas, Zoë Kravitz, Matt Villa, Kate Micucci, Doug Benson, John Venzon, David Burrows, Laura Kightlinger, Jemaine Clement, Riki Lindhome, Eddie Izzard, Seth Green, Nicholas Briggs/Runtime: 104 minutes

I think it can safely be said that if you were given the challenge to name a single comic book character who has had quite the rollercoaster ride in terms of its output on both television as well as film then I would definitely be willing to nominate none other than the legendary superhero Batman. Yet despite being portrayed in a campy light by Adam West, a realistic one by Christian Bale, a comic-book friendly way by Michael Keaton, and a way that somehow involved bat nipples and credit cards (don’t ask) by George Clooney there is no denying that Batman has still managed to become both as iconic in cinema as in the comics to say nothing of one of the more successful, from a cinematic perspective, DC comic book characters. I mean what does it say when a movie like Batman v. Superman is completely and utterly torn apart by the critics and yet one thing that the majority wound up praising in their reviews was the take on the Caped Crusader given by Ben Affleck? Yet despite all the ups and downs there is one thing that I was at one time hoping to see and that was a Bat-flick that was just plain fun again. Thankfully, this now brings us to the slice of cinema I am reviewing for you today, 2017’s The Lego Batman Movie and I am happy to say that with this movie that particular request of mine was answered. I mean I can’t say for sure if this was the Bat-flick that audiences were particularly clamoring for, but I sure as heck know that it was definitely a Bat-flick that was needed by audiences both young and old. To be sure, it’s not a perfect movie so if you’re looking for that then you might want to look in a different Bat Cave. However, if you want to see a lively and just plain entertaining movie with wonderful work on both sides of the camera that also operates as a spot-on love letter to pretty much the entirety of Batman’s legacy especially on the small and big screen then I think it’s safe to say that this slice of cinema will definitely be right up your non-crime-stricken alley.

The plot is as follows: Taking us into the DC superhero realm in the entirety of the known Lego universe, The Lego Batman Movie gets underway by dropping us face first into the thriving brickopolis of Gotham City. A thriving and productive city full of decent and hardworking people….when it isn’t coming under attack by some of the most notorious supervillains ever with such examples including Bane, Scarecrow, The Joker, and the worst of them all: the Condiment King! (joking, joking, but that is a real villain from the comics). Fortunately for the people of Gotham who are able to either stay off the streets at all times and/or successfully have built supervillain proof shelters in their homes, we see that the city does have its own distinct savior to keep the villains at bay. A creature of the night, a whisper in the wind, a being cloaked in shadow and black in equal measure known only as…..BATMAN!! Of course, for all the good work that he does in keeping Gotham safe, it should come as no surprise to learn that this hero is by no means humble to say nothing of on board with working with others. Rather, he is very much the dictionary definitions for both arrogant as well as solo act in equal measure. Yet for as cool as the citizens find him (to say nothing of his secret identity billionaire Bruce Wayne), we see that there might be some people who would disagree with that assessment. The first being Batman/Bruce’s devoted butler/surrogate father figure/glorified yet exasperated babysitter Alfred. This is because here lately Alfred has gotten more than a bit tired of Bruce’s lengthy series of escapades (right down to a very distinct period in the 1960s) and would love to see him actually try to open up to people again starting with a young orphan Bruce accidentally adopts named Dick Grayson. The second being Batman’s arch nemesis in the form of the previously mentioned Joker and that one is a bit more particularly worrisome.  It seems that, following Batman’s more than slightly cruel rejection of the importance Joker plays in his life, we see that the Clown Prince of Crime starts to cook up a truly nefarious scheme that he hopes will show Batman how crucial the bond they have really is…even if it places the city in truly dire peril. Thus with these elements plus a new police commissioner in the form of Barbara Gordon successfully pushing the citizens of Gotham to get behind a new co-op style to dealing with the crime problem in Gotham that also eliminates the need for Batman altogether, can our Caped Crusader put his ego to the curb and learn to let other people into his life again or is this one time where Batman might actually be put….on the bat-burner? That I will leave for you to discover for yourself dear reader….

Now right off the bat, I would like to point out that the work done behind the camera on this film is incredibly well-done. In fact, I will take it a step further and say this slice of cinema was easily (2022’S The Batman hadn’t come out yet folks) Batman’s finest cinematic hour after Christopher Nolan’s groundbreaking work on The Dark Knight Trilogy. This starts with the fact that this slice of cinema’s script possesses a phenomenal comprehension of all things Batman-related from obscure C-grade antagonists right down to key things that happened in the various shows/movies that presented us their own takes on the character. Suffice it to say that more than just a rollicking comic book film, this is also a slice of cinema that is a genuine love letter to the character of Batman that will also leave you at the very least frequently trying to catch all the various winks and nods as well as chuckling in equal measure. It also doesn’t hurt that this slice of cinema from beginning to end is actually quite hilarious. I mean right from the word go this film begins to hurl jokes at you and from that point on we as movie goers are treated to such a swift yet consistent stream of comic book and pop culture comedic bits that don’t be surprised if you find yourself rewatching this more than once just to get them all whilst also laughing every single time. Along with that, it should be noted that this slice of cinema is also the blessed recipient of some truly delightfully gonzo action beats that are so kinetic and engaging that you feel like you are watching the cinematic equivalent of what would happen if you gave a kid a box of Batman-themed Legos, a carton of ice cream, and then just set them and their creativity loose with no restrictions whatsoever. Of course for those of you out there who don’t really care all that much about the aforementioned ingredients, it is also worth noting that whilst the lively action beats plus the gleefully fast yet frequently funny comedic bits are playing out this film also manages to embed into its narrative framework a surprisingly heartfelt message about being willing to open up and let other people into your life following a personal tragedy. No this message isn’t always apparent whilst the movie rolls along, but in the moments that it is this slice of cinema actually does manage to get a surprising degree of heartwarming as we see our main hero slowly come to the realization that he can only be the best version of himself when he permits others to care about and even be there for him. Suffice it to say it really is an inspirational message and one that fits both the film and the main character perfectly.

Of course, the other big component that helps this slice of cinema work on the level that it ultimately is able to would have to be the work done by the top-tier collection of talent lending their voices to the characters in front of the camera as well. This starts with Will Arnett who, once again, proves he is easily the second-best animated Batman we have ever gotten after Kevin Conroy. I mean not only does Arnett contribute a gravelly-voice that fits the character perfectly, but he also manages to give him enough of an ego and sense of humor whilst leaving room for personal growth that you will be left laughing fairly consistently throughout as well as appreciating his character arc in this in equal measure.  As the Yin to Arnett’s Bat-a-rang however is none other than Zach Galifianakis in the role of The Joker and I must admit that I was worried at first when they first announced he would be taking on the role. However, having seen the finished product, I must say that he actually does manage to give a really good performance here. Not just when showcasing Joker’s comedically desperate (yet also oddly understandable) attempts to be recognized by Batman for the (chaos and anarchy-fueled) contribution he brings to his life or even in the delightfully over the top puns and dialogue, but also in moments where he does actually manage to be genuinely menacing as a villain as well. Besides this dynamic duo however, props must also be given to none other than Ralph Fiennes who is so brilliant in the role of Alfred that now I’m beginning to wonder just why in the world as of late he hasn’t been in the running to play the part in a live action Batman movie (I hope you’re taking notes Warner Brothers). I mean not only does Fiennes bring the typically unflappable demeanor and droll sense of humor commonly associated with the character, but he also does a great job at showcasing for us just how much Alfred genuinely cares about Bruce even when Bruce acts like a childish jerk at moments. Alongside that trinity though, I also really enjoyed the work here by Michael Cera in the role of iconic DC punching bag ehhh sidekick (sorry get those two confused sometimes) Dick Grayson aka Robin. I mean for a character that is supposed to get on Batman’s last nerve due to being seemingly limitless in terms of both giddiness to say nothing of sheer enthusiasm and positivity I think it can safely be said that Cera is spot-on in his portrayal. More than that though, Cera also does a wonderful job of bringing a degree of heart to the role that as the movie goes on helps him to ever so slowly win Batman over to the idea of really accepting him into his life. Finally, I also think praise should also be extended to Rosario Dawson who, much like her aforementioned cast members, is perfectly cast as Barbara Gordon. Indeed, not only does Dawson bring a delightful no-nonsense demeanor to the part, but she also has a snarky back and forth with Will Arnett throughout this which is just genuinely wonderful. Suffice it to say that when you also throw into the mix delightful efforts from such talents as Ellie Kemper, Billy Dee Williams, Zoe Kravitz, Hector Elizondo, and Conan O’Brien amongst others what you get is a cast of players who are not only familiar with the kind of movie they are making, but all having an absolute blast bringing it to life as well no matter how big or small their role may be.

All in all and at the end of the day, is The Lego Batman Movie a perfect slice of superhero cinema? Honestly I would not say that though not for lack of effort by any means. At the same time would I say that this slice of cinema is the next Batman v. Superman? Nope; in fact, I’ll take it a step further than that and say that’s about as likely as two superbeings stopping a fight because they discover that their mothers have the same first name (hey wait a sec….). Indeed if anything dear reader I would say that this is a genuinely great time to be had by everyone from 5-92 (and even beyond come to think) and especially those who, like yours truly, have been long time fans of the Caped Crusader and his various shenanigans across the years on a variety of mediums with particular regard to television and film respectively. As a result, this movie will not only delight younger adults (or kids as they are also often called) with the vibrant visuals, charming characters, engaging action, and delightful mile a minute comedy, but also the older children (or adults) in the audience with a fairly steady stream of nostalgic winks and nods that they are sure to get just as much a kick out of all the other previously mentioned ingredients. Thus when you factor in extremely well done work behind the camera and top-tier work from a phenomenal cast of players lending their vocal talents to the characters in front of the camera The Lego Batman Movie might not be the say-all, end-all when it comes to the iconic titular character’s cinematic legacy, but it is undoubtedly one of the most fun to say nothing of one that you and your little bats most assuredly can get nuts over for years to come. Make of that what thou will. On a scale of 1-5 I give The Lego Batman Movie a solid 4 out of 5.