The basic spoiler-free story finds Batman at the height of his success, beating all the villains Gotham can throw at him. Telling the Joker that he doesn't consider him 'Batman's Greatest Enemy', Batman unexpectedly sets the Clown Prince down a path to prove himself as the Dark Knight's biggest baddie, all while a young orphan Dick Grayson arrives in Batman's life and a new Police Commissioner in Barbara Gordon takes command...
The Batman Humour
When The Lego Batman Movie gets it's humour right, it's downright hilarious, and anything to do with parodying or pointing out the Batman lore and the Rogue's Gallery had me in stitches. Introducing us to some of Batman's less popular opponents, some best left forgotten, the jokes come hard and fast whenever the older Batman films, tv shows and comics comes into play. These jokes and scenes are right up there alongside The Lego Movie with their bluntness, their creativity and their delivery. Absolute genius!
Will Arnett/Michael Cera
Will Arnett has already proven himself as The Lego Movie's Batman and it's no surprise that he delivers the star performance. His comic timing is impeccable and he always has the funniest dialogue (outside of the Rogues Gallery characters). The biggest surprise however was Michael Cera as Dick Grayson/Robin: While Cera usually plays the mumbling, awkward teenager and rarely ever steps out of that bubble, here he delivers the most high-energy performance of his career. He is hilarious and completely throwing himself into every scene. While his jokes are not the funniest, he goes for it with such enthusiasm that it does make them funnier purely from his delivery. Cera and Arnett's chemistry together is brilliant, with their prior Arrested Development experience clearly getting them very comfortable riffing off of one another. A winning pair for sure!
The CG animation used in The Lego Movie to make the film look like it was filmed in stop-motion was amazing; thankfully they employ the same visual style here and it looks as great as ever! The clumsy, physical style really sells a lot of the visual humour, especially early on in the film when Batman is less than enthused by a party invitation. It may sound funny but the animation at times is actually too good, losing a bit of the stop-motion feel, especially near the end. A minor note, as for the most part it absolutely keeps the spirit of it's predecessor and looks as wonderfully blocky as ever, pun intended.
The Lack of 'Lego' Humour
There are a couple of gags in the movie that really sell the fact that this is set in a Lego world, and these jokes are probably the best moments in the whole film. However it also reveals one of my biggest problems with this film, which is the complete lack of Lego-related humour. It wasn't something I thought would be an issue but where The Lego Movie used its complete stylistic awareness as a chance to deliver a great plot amidst complete insanity, The Lego Batman Movie comes off as very tame in comparison. The characters seem to be completely unaware that they are Lego-made, unlike in the previous film. This movie is much more focused on the main plot, which is decent enough, if not very predictable. While, as I said, a couple of gags involving the Lego world are fantastic, it's just such a notable decline from the previous feature that it's a definite downer.
The 'Kid Jokes'
My biggest problem in this movie however is with the jokes that are clearly directed at kids. The Lego Movie did not have this problem and as a result the jokes were consistently funny for all who were watching. This film has some unbearably long sequences that are clearly supposed to get a laugh from the kids more than the adults, including a beatboxing sequence that had me cringing and hiding my head in my hands. These scenes were noticeably dumber than anything in TLM and I felt that there were much subtler ways of handling these points in the story.
The Overly Serious 3rd Act
I hate to continually compare this to The Lego Movie, but TLM knew when to get serious; it used it's dramatic moments sparingly, so that when they came, they had a major impact. The finale of The Lego Batman Movie has some honestly great emotional beats that tie into the overarching story of Lego Batman's character, but they end up dragging on too much and drowning out the funnier parts. Just when it seems like it's getting funnier again, several minutes of drama, then after about 15 seconds of humour, several minutes of drama. It winds up actually taking itself too seriously and I found myself getting a bit bored by it.
I guess I was hoping for more to be done with the infinite possibilities available. The use of villains in the finale is generally excellent but the lack of funny dialogue really slows the ending down.
Overall The Lego Batman Movie is a pretty mixed bag. When it's good, it's fantastic, but when it's bad, it borders on cringe levels.
The self-aware humour with regards to the Batman universe is hugely creative and had me nearly in tears from laughter, while the limited Lego humour had the whole cinema in uproar.
However, the children's portion of the jokes and the more modern pop culture references had me face-in-palm and can be hard to watch at points.
The lack of self-referential Lego jokes was also very noticeable compared to The Lego Movie and the finale took itself far too seriously, but a top-notch voice cast and great animation do help to keep this film enjoyable throughout.
As a follow up to The Lego Movie this is nowhere close, but as a funny family movie with laughs for grownups and kids, I do have to say this is a solid choice.