Child’s Play: The Lego Batman Movie

Today we are traveling to Gotham City… sort of.

poster

Let me just start by saying that I am not a huge fan of Batman. I like him okay, I’ve seen all the movies that feature him; but as far as super heroes go he just doesn’t do it for me personally. I know he’s hugely popular and is super rich and has a bunch of cool stuff and talks in a gruff manly voice but if you knew me at all you’d know that is not the sort of stuff that tends to impress me. I just don’t love macho. I’m sorry. I really am. So, The Lego Batman Movie is probably my favorite Batman movie that has ever been made. Yes, I am an adult.

But I am also an adult who is a babysitter. And for awhile I was a babysitter of girls so even though the trailers to this looked pretty hilarious it still managed to slip by because those girls weren’t talking about it. It was only at the advent of summer when I started babysitting a few boys that this film slammed me full in the face. They were obsessed with it. And there were only so many times I could ask who this minifigure was or what is that awesome looking purple car before I had to bite the bullet and actually see The Lego Batman Movie.

I watched this movie at an outdoor movies in the park screening and I think I was the only one completely invested until the end. The kids had probably seen it before and the siren call of the playground was apparently too much. Still I sat there riveted until the final frame because this movie was cute, hilarious, and had plenty of morals and lessons. The sort of movie that you want your kids to see and appeals to the whole family. Of course, I was there alone, and when I was trying to decided if I wanted to walk down to this park one of my friends told me she had heard the movie wasn’t any good anyway. That puzzled me because I’d only heard good things. Granted, all the good things I’d heard were from families. After watching, and being thoroughly enchanted, I’ve spent a good long time trying to figure out what people wouldn’t like about this movie and I’ve come up with a response; they take Batman really seriously. This movie does not take Batman seriously. It spends a good deal of the film making fun of Batman, retconning origin stories, and generally driving those without sound senses of humor crazy. It was obviously amazing. But, I can see how that might rub a few people the wrong way. When I was in high school and saw Spaceballs for the first time I think I chuckled once. I took Star Wars way too seriously. I still don’t really like Spaceballs, but hey, nothing’s for everyone. The point is that The Lego Batman Movie is pretty much a parody film, and it’s a great one, packed with almost too many jokes.

The action begins on a typical Gotham evening when a plane carrying a cache of weapons and explosives piloted by a pair of best friends is cleared to fly over the “most crime ridden city in the world”. Naturally, it is immediately taken over by the Joker (Zach Galifinakis) who is leading a band of pretty much every Batman villain, including Two-Face, Poison Ivy, the Riddler, Scarecrow, Catwoman, Clayface, Bane, Mr. Freeze, Killer Croc, the Penguin, Harley Quinn, Hugo Strange, Man-Bat, Orca, Crazy Quilt, Mime, Polka Dot Man, Eraser, Tarantula, Captain Boomerang, King Tut, Clock King, Calendar Man, Catman, Kite Man, Zebra Man, Gentleman Ghost, The Zodiac King, Killer Moth, March Harriet, the Kabuki Twins, Magpie, Calculator, Doctor Phosphorus, and the Condiment King. The plan, of course, is foiled when Batman (Will Arnett, reprising his role from The Lego Movie) appears and kicks the shit out of the lot of them. Still, they all seem to escape, but not before Batman tells Joker that he isn’t his nemesis and that the villain means nothing to him. Eliciting this face:

 

Triumphant, Batman goes home and eats lobster thermidor by himself and broods about his parents being dead for awhile while the Joker broods about not being appreciated by Batman. When Superman appears on television talking about his recent battle with Zod that ended with Zod being banished to a space prison called the Phantom Zone that houses all the greatest villains, both adversaries hatch a plan. Throw in an overzealous orphan sidekick (Michael Cera), Bruce Wayne’s trusty butler Alfred, new commissioner Barbara Gordon (Rosario Dawson), and a whole mess of villains from other Lego sets (such as Voldemort, the Wicked Witch of the West, the Eye of Sauron, King Kong, the Kraken, Medusa, the Creature from the Black Lagoon, Jaws, and more) and we have a film so filled with plot that it doesn’t seem like it should work, but it does.

So, let’s talk Robin.

Holy crap was this little duder cute. He was just so exuberant and over excited. And somehow entirely capable of doing elaborate gymnastics after growing up alone in an orphanage. He knows gymkata (which is a hilarious movie and you should watching it, but that’s besides the point). He is just entirely endearing. Entirely.

And, I’m going to take a moment to appreciate this tag team of adorable:

joker harley

I really didn’t think there was any point in my life where I would be finding the Joker cute. I mean, I think we can all agree that he’s a pretty terrible dude. Especially in recent years. He’s just sort of the villain you know is going to show up eventually in any sort of Batman related anything. Because he’s Batman’s greatest enemy, whether Batman wants to admit it or not. I’ve always been able to give or take him. And his relationship with Harley Quinn is pretty fucked up so I can’t really support that. But thank you Lego! because in this movie these two are really stinking cute.  Harley spends half the time on roller skates, throwing encouragements towards her Boo-boo as he agonizes over getting back at Batman for not hating him enough. And, for once, she’s treated as a trusted ally, the only villain in on Joker’s plans. It’s sort of refreshing. And of course, this is the sort of movie where the villains are still likable and everyone walks away at the end of the day knowing there’s more battles to come and no one actually dies.

Because that’s what these Lego movies are, really; cute, clever, and very self aware. In The Lego Movie the main character  falls off the table where a child is playing with his father’s meticulously constructed Lego sets, raising the question of creativity or “perfection”. Here we learn early on that Gotham City is built on two flimsy pieces of plastic and a well placed bomb could break the city in half, tossing all the residents into an abyss that smells like dirty underwear. This Gotham City was built, probably by the same kid from The Lego Movie, and is inhabited with characters that are just that, characters. Batman will always be the good guy fighting the bad guy. There are no origin stories, no strong motivations, no background beyond the fact that Batman fights a crew of established villains. There is, however, character development particularly on the titular character’s part. A big part of his character is that he is afraid to get close to people but by the end he’s able to work with Barbara Gordon, accept Alfred’s help, relate to the kid he accidentally adopted,

the-lego-batman-movie3

and save the city by finally telling the Joker that he hates him in a scene so gay that it makes one imagine they must have snuck it under the radar when everyone was distracted by the two second scene where LeFou dances with a man in Beauty and the Beast.

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So, yes, The Lego Batman Movie was glorious. And though I am a little late to the party I’m glad I made it there in the long run. And so are all the kids that I babysit because, man, so many of them have a poster on their wall with their favorite characters. Which is patently great, because that means there’s a little something for everyone.

Bat Family out.

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