The Lego Batman Movie – Review (*** 1/2)

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If not quite matching the high standard set by 2014’s surprisingly excellent The Lego Movie, this Bat-centric spin-off is a spry, visually lavish superhero movie that should easily satisfy frothing fanboys and casuals alike.

The Joker (Zach Galifianakis) is terrorising Gotham City once again in a desperate attempt to get Batman’s (Will Arnett) attention, so it falls to the Caped Crusader to defend his city, teaming up with trusty butler Alfred (Ralph Fiennes), newly-minted Commissioner Barbara Gordon (Rosario Dawson) and his recently adopted son, Dick Grayson aka Robin (Michael Cera).

In most ways that count, this is a far more satisfying superhero movie than the majority of the straight-faced spandex-clad fare that came down the pike last year, crucially understanding the formula that makes those films successful but divergening to mock them like its life depends on it (because it basically does). To some the movie’s sarcastic, ultra-self-aware tone may smack of smarmy obnoxiousness, but the sheer assault of quality comedy gags and obscure references will make it hard for most Bat-fans not to become at least somewhat rapt with this hilariously eccentric animated adventure.

Will Arnett continues to be a terrific Batman in his own right and he’s joined by a splendid cast here, especially Michael Cera, who finds a superb middle-ground of endearing and slightly annoying to make his Robin a frequent scene-stealer. As pithy and gleefully reference-heavy as the script is, it’s the animation that really makes this one such a success; the style is consistent with the 2014 movie but builds on it with more elaborate action sequences and the inherent comedy value of seeing the innards of the Batcave brought to life with plastic blocks.

It’s worth saying that the pic does suffer a little from over-familiarity; there’s definitely not the freshness that made The Lego Movie such a shocking winner, while the themes also feel less sophisticated and it hammers home the same joke a little too much on occasion. Still, aside from one pronounced comedic and narrative lull in the second act, this is a mostly tight animated comedy that’s clearly been crafted with much more imagination and care than it really needed to in order to succeed.

It’s hard to imagine fans of The Lego Movie or Batman not coming away at least inoffensively entertained, and there will surely be plenty of fans from both camps who will flat-out love this. It’s not the breath of fresh air that its predecessor was, but if the Lego Cinematic Universe is really going to be a thing – which it certainly is – it at least appears to have more quality control than Warner Bros’ “real” superhero universe does right now.

*** 1/2

The Lego Batman Movie is in cinemas February 10th

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